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The Almighty Buck United States Technology

Do Your $20 Bills Explode In the Microwave? 1165 1165

msaulters writes "After repeatedly setting off RFID scanners in a truck stop, the author discovered the culprit was a wad of $20's in his back pocket. In a paranoid attempt to keep the government from tracking him, he attempted to fry the embedded chips in his microwave, with interesting results." Alex Jones has interesting theories about a number of things, but evidently a lot of readers were interested in this one.
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Do Your $20 Bills Explode In the Microwave?

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  • Mobile phones (Score:2, Interesting)

    by noelo (661375) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:16AM (#8437712)
    I wonder what will happen to these notes when the come into long duration contact with a mobile phone
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:17AM (#8437724)
    The most cursory inspection of a $20 bill shows there's no RFID tag in Jackson's right eye.

    Has anyone tried a control experiment of plain inkjet paper in the same form factor?
  • no dice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Catskul (323619) * on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:19AM (#8437757) Homepage
    I tried it... it didnt work.
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:22AM (#8437779)
    Nothing like a Slashdot post to jump to a conclusion.

    Clearly, there's something funny going on with the microwaved bills... but stores don't have RFID scanners at the exits yet. They have an acousto-magnetic [phonelosers.org] sensor that gets deactivated by a pad at the cash register so that paying customers aren't supposed to set them off. Big difference here is that the tags in a store system don't yet emit an identifying signal... they all emit the same reply. The store doesn't know what a shoplifter did to trip the alarm, just that they did trip it. There's not quite proof that each bill is emitting its serial number yet.

    Also, having microwaved everything in a stack makes things a bit unclear. Did every eye burn on its own, or did just one or two bills in the middle of the stack catch flame which in turn burned all of the bills above and below in varying degrees. Notice that the top and bottom bills were unharmed. Could one bill alone be microwaved safely?

    And, BTW, if you so much as put slightly crumpled tin foil in your microwave, you get a similar effect. Could there just be a small metal content in the bill designed so that somebody who has $1000 worth of $20 bills (rather than simply 10 $100's) in their wallet is sure to set off an airport security alarm until they show their wallet to make sure they get an extra security questions?

    It's interesting, but I think more research needs to be done. Microwave carefully, people.
  • No money lost (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:25AM (#8437805)

    They may have exploded, but they're still valid currency. The treasury has an entire department which is solely for processing damaged money. I remember seeing an interview with one of the inspectors. I believe the essential part of it was that you had to have more than the majority of the bill material in OK condition to prove that you didn't just cut it up and try to claim all the pieces.

    Since the bills are intact all the way around and it looks like in many cases the serials are OK, I'd say he's OK, and can get them exchanged for non-exploded ones. Of course, he better not go saying he microwaved them, as destruction of currency is a federal crime(the penny-mangling machines are 'licensed' to do it, to nip one question in the bud...)

    What is interesting is that they burned so readily- US currency is supposed to be decently non-flammable(it's one of thousands of tests done on the paper and ink- that's why your bills make it through the laundry OK, for example). It's probably the toughest paper in the world, able to survive virtually anything. Except microwaving, apparently :-)

  • Re:illegal? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:26AM (#8437816)
    Why should it be illegal?

    A $20 bank note is your receipt for lending $20 to the government with no interest.

    If you'd like to lend $20 to the government and then not claim it back later, I'm sure that the government will be very happy.
  • by sailracer6 (262434) * on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:26AM (#8437823) Journal
    Get yourself some thermal fax paper and put it in the microwave for a few seconds. The parts hit most strongly will turn brown. I am fairly certain the same thing is happening here, although one shoud just try it with a $20-bill shaped piece of paper to be sure. Microwaves are far from uniform in their energy output -- that's why the carousel has become so ubiquitous.


    Now, you should go look at Alex Jones' apparent infiltration of Bohemian Grove [infowars.com], an annual meeting of powerful people -- now that's intriguing.

  • Re:I'm skeptical. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Robotech_Master (14247) * on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:28AM (#8437837) Homepage Journal
    A couple more quick points I just thought of:

    1) Even if the money was designed to set off anti-theft systems (which would be dumb, for the reason I parenthetically enumerated above) it could only deliver one bit of data: on or off, yes or no, it was or was not tagged with a theft prevention device.

    2) Even being able to track money at all is not new. [wheresgeorge.com] Why d'ya think mobsters need to launder it?
  • Re:illegal? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Goldfinger7400 (630228) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:29AM (#8437848)
    Well, he did remove $1000 dollars from circulation (not exactly pennies in a fountain) so maybe the government would be bothered by that.
  • Re:illegal? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jasonditz (597385) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:30AM (#8437854) Homepage
    It used to be... not anymore.

    Back in the late 70's melting coins was a federal offense.
  • by Supp0rtLinux (594509) <Supp0rtLinux@yahoo.com> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:32AM (#8437870)
    Looking beyond the fact that they flushed $1000.00, but they were stupid enough to publish their results on the web. So much for the listing on urbanlegends.com. Unfortunately, what they may have failed to realize is that the Federal Reserve Note is not technically theirs. Yes, the value of it is. And in the old days, they could've traded it for an equal amount of gold or silver. But all paper currency in the U.S. is technically the property of the U.S. government. This is why it is illegal to deface paper currency. And these guys were bright enough to do so *and* publish the results. One must wonder if they're going to be fined.

    The only thing necessary for Micro$oft to triumph is for a few good programmers to do nothing". North County Computers [nccomp.com]
  • by jasonditz (597385) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:33AM (#8437885) Homepage
    Here in MI if you have that kind of cash on a state highway the state police can seize it and hold it until you prove it wasn't being used in a drug transaction.
  • Re:I'm skeptical. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ffattizzi (516177) <ffattizzi.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:34AM (#8437896)
    I used to set off these anti theft systems in some stores, but not every store. Couldn't figure out what was going on. Finally at one store, an employee told me it was my wallet. I had bought a new wallet about 9 months before, but never thought it was the cause because I left the store I bought it at without setting off the alarm. He deactivated my wallet and I've never had this happen again.

    My guess is this guy had the same problem, but because of a bit of paranoia, he blamed his cash. Microwave money long enough and I bet it starts to burn near the center. And if you have a stack of them, I bet you might get a little explosion like they wrote about.

    I think he needs to loosen his tin foil hat, it's starting to cut off circulation.
  • Re:I'm skeptical. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shanen (462549) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:36AM (#8437905) Homepage Journal
    I think it's just some kind of coil. When I worked at an electronics store in Akihabara the network cables would routinely trip the alarms when they went through. We would just take the cable out of the bag, let them go through the detector, and then hand them the cable separately.

    Not sure of the exact details, but I think the detectors are actually fishing for some kind of recognition code from the proper devices. Basically a kind of transponder-like approach. They're able to detect that a possible antenna is present, but something like a network cable is definitely not going to provide the correct response.
  • Re:illegal? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vwjeff (709903) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:41AM (#8437942)
    Yes defacing US currency is against the law only if you attempt to use the defaced currency. In a paranoid fit you can microwave all the Jacksons you want however the they should be sent to me first for inspection. I wouldn't want the man to destroy any non-RFID bills!!

    An explaination for the money "exploding" is simple. All US notes above $5 contain metal in them. Hold the bill up to a light and you will see a thin strip on the bill. This strip is infact metal. I don't know if this is true but I have also heard that the paper used to make the bills contains small strands of metal among the paper and cloth fibers.

    The author is obviously against RFID tags and is using money because it is something we can all relate to (some more than others.) He is just trying to raise awareness of the issue. I personally feel he could have done it in a different way but then again we might not be talking about it now if he had.
  • RFID tag killer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:44AM (#8437952) Homepage Journal
    Information Unlimited sells Tesla coils. [amazing1.com] I can speak first hand of how effective they are at frying electronics. I built their BTC3K Tesla Coil when I was in 10th grade, it is fantastic. On days with low humidity purple sparks 10-12 inches in length are not out of the question. I figure that 250,000 volts is more than enough to fry RFID chips.

    LK
  • Re:illegal? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by logicnazi (169418) <logicnazi@nospam.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:55AM (#8438028) Homepage
    Actually it was my understanding that it was still illegal to melt down coins to redeem the base metals. I was under the impression that the metals in the penny are more valuable then the penny, but I may be mistaken.
  • Re:I'm skeptical. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by skiflyer (716312) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:58AM (#8438034)
    For some reason if you bet on horses you tend to see more 2 dollar bills... at least that was my experience a few years ago.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:04AM (#8438063)
    I see this happen all the time on the TV show "Cops" -- it's as if cash is illegal.
  • Re:illegal? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jackb_guppy (204733) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:04AM (#8438068)
    If made of copper. Now its alum with a skin of copper
  • Re:illegal? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kfg (145172) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:05AM (#8438073)
    The government is also very happy when you buy stamps and don't use them. The Post Office itself even now has a department to cater to such trade.

    KFG
  • Re:I'm skeptical. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MicroBerto (91055) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:07AM (#8438085)
    Wheresgeorge.com is a very interesting site, but come on, there's basically nothing in there! I put in a few bills and it was always the first one in their database.

    There's too much money out there to rely on users to update that stuff.

  • by s1234d (542588) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:09AM (#8438093)
    I remember reading somewhere that a stack of paper put into a microwave will char in the middle. Heat input from all around maximising at the centre. Try it with ordinary paper (carefully) before drawing any paranoid conclusions about RFID tracking.
  • bullshit. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pair-a-noyd (594371) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:16AM (#8438128)
    Microwave radiation won't affect RFID. They are too small. Try nuking some ants and see what happens.

    Secondly, who is STUPID enough to ruin that much money?

    Third, I suspect this is FAKE and if so, someone may be guilty of counterfiting. If they printed up fake bills to make this fake "news" report, the Treasury folks may be interested.

    And lastely, Alex Jones is a FLAKE that is in serious need of MEDS..

    JMO..
  • Re:I'm skeptical. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nil5 (538942) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:16AM (#8438133) Homepage
    Essentially you're right, but you're kind of looking at it the wrong way. It is an LC circuit, but there isn't a coil or capacitor in the discrete component sense. Take a look at the device that you get from Barnes & Noble or in a CD case. It looks like a wire that is configured in a spiral. HMMMM
    Now that's an LC circuit (if you want to think of it like that), but must people think of it as an antenna. I've never found out exactly how these systems work, but I imagine that they emit some RF and listen for some type of scattering from the device. When an EM wave impinges on some material, some of it will be reradiated in the scattered field. I'm willing to bet (but admit i could well be wrong,please correct me) there's some kind of nonlinearity which emits/scatters a distinguishible signal of different frequency. Otherwise you'd have to use atime-domain technique to "look for" the scattered signal (must differentiate between what you're transmitting and receiving).
  • by Dr. Zowie (109983) <slashdot.deforest@org> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:16AM (#8438135)
    ...they're "mid-20s", the previous generation. The new 20s don't have a halo around Jackson.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:21AM (#8438166)
    On every dollar in circulation, we are paying interest to the Federal Reserve corporation which buys bonds from the US Government. This is a transaction which brings new currency into circulation.

    Here's the kicker: In the ultimate scam, The Federal Reserve (a privately owned corporation) buys the bonds with money that never previously existed!

    Yes, it is a private corporation. The so-called "Federal Reserve" is not federal, nor does it contain any reserves.

    Ultimately we are paying this interest in the form of taxes, a large amount of which goes to the Federal Reserve corporation.

    The USA has a fractional reserve system of "fiat" currency. No, it is NOT backed up by precious metal anymore. In the ultimate irony, our own currency is now only backed up by a debt - a debt which we owe!

    THAT is why the whole system as it now stands should be illegal! Constitutionally, we should not have to pay anyone, let alone a private corporation, for the use of our own national currency.
  • Re:'Quotes' (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:29AM (#8438208)
    Just a quick run-down on Alex Jones and his Infowars.com site.

    This guy is viewed as a Class-A crackpot in Austin, Texas. He has a cable access show twice a week in which he rants about conspiracy theories of all kinds of varieties. He has run numerous shows on how the government literally has black helicopters following him around South Austin. He was predicting armageddon when the Y2K bug was supposed to hit. He fully espouses the notion that Bush not only had previous-knowledge of 9/11 but planned it. He did a special [yahoo.com] where he claims that all presidents past and present meet at Bohemiam Grove, worship an owl god, and sacrifice children. He also believes the United Nations is preparing to occupy the United States any day now (according to him it has been for at least the last ten years). A quick look at his shop [yahoo.com] will give you a pretty good indication of his beliefs.

    Keep this in mind when judging the validity of this article
  • by raehl (609729) <(raehl311) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:33AM (#8438230) Homepage
    Did he try passing his wallet through the detector without the money?

    I have a Kastanza wallet - I put everything in there, and it's waaay too big. The wallet I had was falling apart, and eventually my girlfriend pretty much forced me into buying a new one. Which I did, at the retail store she works at.

    It just so happens that after this, I could no longer get through the metal detector at airport security. The wallet would set off the wand, and the TSA agent would spend a good 3-5 minutes examining the wallet, but couldn't find anything amiss and would eventually let me through.

    The *FOURTH* time I went through security an agent finally managed to find the source of my problem: An anti-theft tag placed in some obscure fold of the wallet.

    As it turns out, the guy at the store responsible for putting the anti-theft tags in things has a reputation for being able to hide them very well.

    So I'd be willing to bet something similar is afoot here.

    As for the money burning all in the same spot, it's pretty obvious why: Metal heats up in the microwave, and paper has low thermal conductivity. Put one bill in the microwave, the heat escapes from both sides of the bill fast enough that you don't get enough heat to initiate combustion. Stack 50 of them on top of each other, and now you've got a buncha metal in the middle of a buncha paper, the heat builds up in the center, and now your bills combust. The bills didn't all burn in the same spot - one bill started burning, and then the other bills - all stacked neatly on top of each other - burned in the same spot as the fire spread up and down the stack.

    A conpiracy theorist needs to be smart enough to connect a bunch of unrelated facts, but not smart enough to realize that they're unrelated.
  • Re:No. They don't. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by forevermore (582201) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:38AM (#8438247) Homepage
    I just zapped a $20 bill for 20 seconds and it's barely even warm

    This is probably because if there is anything under his eye, it's smaller than the microwave wavelengths. Our favorite TV Chef [altonbrown.com] pointed this out in his popcorn episode [foodnetwork.com] when he informs us that staples are too small to get enough of the microwaves to heat up and burn the paper bag they're stapled into.

  • Re:illegal? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by richie2000 (159732) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:38AM (#8438248) Homepage Journal
    I haven't seen one of your new twenties, but in Sweden, all bills have metal strands [riksbanken.se] in them, in the same exact location in every bill. They have had this for at least 20 years, probably more. It's for the same reason as they watermark them, make them light up under UV light [riksbanken.se] and use special paper - to make them more difficult to forge.

    But if the metal strands really are RFID tags, I guess the RFID technology actually came from Roswell and was kept secret until fairly recently...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:03AM (#8438334)
    As borrowed from World Wide Words [quinion.com] (I don't know either. I just googled for it, okay?):

    [Q] From Geoff Bird: "In one of the Monty Python movies, as a woman falsely accused of being a witch is being carted off to her destiny she says under her breath, that's a fair cop! Is this the common British slang for being arrested?"

    [A] It's a well-understood British expression, though it has been used so often in second-rate detective stories and police television series down the decades that it has long since ceased to be possible to use it seriously (the Monty Python team was playing on its cliched status).

    It comes from the same root as the term cop for a policeman. This may be from the slang verb cop, meaning to seize, originally a dialect term of northern England that by the beginning of the nineteenth century was known throughout the country. This can be followed back through French caper to Latin capere, to seize or take, from which we also get our capture. (See also the piece on cop, a policeman.) So a cop in this sense was an example of a seizure or capture.

    It's a fair cop was what the essentially good-natured thief with a typically British sense of fair play was supposed to say as his collar was fingered by the fuzz, meaning that the arrest was reasonable and that he really had done what he was accused of doing. You will understand that this is, and always has been, an entirely fictitious view of the relationship between British criminals and the police.

  • It Doesn't add up (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vandalman (746235) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:19AM (#8438397)
    I count only $600 in the pictures. Either he can't count or there is $400 in bills that arn't damaged. What happened to those 20 extra bills?
  • by SacredNaCl (545593) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:47AM (#8438483) Journal
    The *FOURTH* time I went through security an agent finally managed to find the source of my problem: An anti-theft tag placed in some obscure fold of the wallet.

    As it turns out, the guy at the store responsible for putting the anti-theft tags in things has a reputation for being able to hide them very well.


    Many items come from the warehouse with 4-5 tags in them in different places. I bought a bottle of aspirin the other day that not only had them on the underside of the label, it had one on the inside of the box, one on the outside of the box, and one under the cap. Excessive for a mere $3 bottle of aspirin.

    This is why professional shoplifters go through the trouble of sewing in foil lined pockets & pouches in their clothing. Once these systems are in place, the security tends to rely on them. It stops some of the amateurs, but professionals can come in and rob the place blind. They never set off an alarm and the first the store is aware of it is when an entire shelf of goods is missing.

  • Re:'Quotes' (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:55AM (#8438512)
    Check out this piece of work [infowars.com] on Alex Jones' website.

    Under the pretense of preparing for Y2K, the federal government has provided us with a solution for a problem that has not yet come: broader powers and more centralized control. In the name of taking care of us, all our freedoms are being taken away while a huge dictatorial machine is gearing up to control and smash all opposition. Everything that the Global Elite claim they are wanting to do is the exact opposite of what they are actually doing.

    FEMA boxes in every radio and television station in the land allow Washington to take control of all of the media in the entire country with the flip of a single switch. The individual broadcasting stations cannot bypass the FEMA equipment; the best they can do is to just shut off the transmitter and stop broadcasting completely. The FEMA boxes effectively turn the tens of thousands of individual broadcast stations into a single government propaganda channel. When activated, there will be only one version of the news: the government version.

    Way to go for the journalistic credibilty, Malda! Stay on top of these great sources.
  • by PingXao (153057) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:00AM (#8438528)
    You know if I kept setting off a store alarm and I knew damn well I hadn't boosted anything I'd keep right on walking. "Would you step over here, sir?" would be met with a quick "Fuck you. Call the cops if you think I stole something. Who the hell do you think you are?

    Retail employees with hand-scanning wands. Give me a break. If there's a living, breathing witness that saw me steal something, that's one thing. But no machine is going to bear false witness against me. I would refuse to cooperate. A truckstop is not an airport where the guards are employees with authority and jurisdiction to prevent "dangerous" items on board aircraft. I refuse to recognize that they have any authority to search or probe my person.

    Those magnetic tag detectors you see in stores have only one valid purpose as far as I can see. To act as a deterrent and scare would-be thieves away. They convey no authority to perform a body scan.
  • Re:illegal? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:03AM (#8438544)
    Actually it was my understanding that it was still illegal to melt down coins to redeem the base metals. I was under the impression that the metals in the penny are more valuable then the penny, but I may be mistaken.

    In 1966 Australia introduced its new decimal currency. The 50c coin included a lot of silver, and shortly after the price of silver rose so that there was 58c worth of it in each coin. So the government quickly redesigned it with a new alloy with no silver at all.

  • by CB-in-Tokyo (692617) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:04AM (#8438547) Homepage
    Japan is such a cash based system, that this actually suprises me if it is true. The bank machines used to shut down here at 7:00 PM because the banking computer systems could not keep up with processing over-night transactions. Some are open now, but you cannot make deposits via a bank machine after 3:00 PM. At a bank machine in Tokyo, you can take out up to 1,000,000 yen (around $9000USD) per transaction, and it is common here for people to have $500 to $1000 in their pockets. To actually track all of this cash take a huge amount of processing power.

    If this actually does happen within two years, then it will certainly make life easier for muggers. Carry a small silent scanner with you and you will know who has the cash.

    "Hey you, Show me the money!"

  • Security alarms.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BigZaphod (12942) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:26AM (#8438628) Homepage
    Well, this news may or may not be a hoax. However, I have personally had problems with a couple stores and their security devices crop up suddenly in the last few months. I tracked it as far as my wallet. Nothing had changed about my wallet's configuration. It had the same credit cards, id, etc. Suddenly I ran into a problem where I was setting off some security gates when going into or out of a couple of stores in the city where my girlfriend goes to school. So, after some trial and error, I eventually tracked it to my wallet (I tried going through each time I visited her and took one item at a time out of my pockets.. cell phone, loose change, gave her my car keys and had her walk in before me, etc. until eventually I got rid of the wallet and the problem went away--which presents a problem when you want to go to the store to buy something...).

    So anyway, there might be something to this although it could be related to the partially conductive ink on newer bills. I haven't bothered to track it any farther (as to specific money arrangements) as I've grown tired of the murderous looks I get from other customers as I walk through and the alarm sounds. (Oddly, the employees never seem to care...)
  • by JeremyALogan (622913) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:27AM (#8438631) Homepage
    well... my first clue that they had no idea what they were talking about was when I looked at the picture. The article clearly said that it was over $1000 in cash. There's only $600 in the pic. It also said that it was burned uniformly... it clearly isn't.

    in response to the tracking of money... people even do it voluntarily... Where's George [wheresgeorge.com]

    this isn't interesting, insightful, or anything else... I just wanted to point it out

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @06:06AM (#8438783)
    This seems to be a feasible possibility.

    SCULLY: How can they do that?

    BYERS: How? I'll show you how. You got a twenty dollar bill?

    SCULLY: Hmmm... I'll check.

    (She digs into her back pocket, looking at Mulder, who smiles back.

    She pulls out a twenty.)

    SCULLY: Um-hmmm.

    (She hands it to Byers and he goes over to the table.

    Mulder waves his hands like "I don't know.")

    LANGLY: (still on phone) Uh-huh... yeah...

    (Byers holds the bill in front of him and rips off its left side.

    Scully crosses over to him. Langly can still be heard unintelligibly

    in the background.)

    SCULLY: Hey!

    (Mulder laughs. Scully looks back at him. Byers pulls out the magnetic

    anti-counterfeiting strip.)

    BYERS: That's just one method. They use this magnetic strip to track

    you. Whenever you go through a metal detector at an airport, they know

    exactly how much you're carrying.

    MULDER: Hey, Byers, it is a federal crime to deface money.

    (Scully crosses back to Mulder, holding the ripped bill. Langly hangs up.)

    SCULLY: This strip is an anti-counterfeiting measure.

    LANGLY: How come it's on the inside? Other countries put that strip on the outside.
  • anonymity of cash (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajs318 (655362) <(sd_resp2) (at) (earthshod.co.uk)> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @06:20AM (#8438836)
    The anonymity of pound notes [or dollar bills] is a point in their favour. Imagine if it was possible to trace the history of every note in your wallet?

    Suppose some supermarket chain decided not to accept money obtained by gambling; so, say, you couldn't spend money won fairly and squarely at William Hill's in Asda. Or a brewery decided that pubs selling their beer should not accept money that had been used to purchase, shall we say, products that compete with alcohol? If traders could refuse to accept money that had been won in a lawsuit, suing people would become less attractive {maybe there is an upside to this after all}.

    There would be a brand new market for "clean" notes, which would go for more than their face value. Meanwhile, some establishments -- and I suspect they would be the posher ones -- would not be so fastidious about checking where money had been.

    The end result of knowing the full history of every piece of money would be a situation where money would have different nominal values in different establishments -- and the reason why money was invented in the first place was so that you had something whose nominal value was the same everywhere you went.

    I guess it's already possible to do this sort of thing in theory, since every note already has a unique serial number; but the infrastructure just isn't in place to do it. However, you can bet that the infrastructure would find its way into place right as they were in the process of deploying RFID-ed currency.

    And just who is going to protect you from all this? In the beginning, only criminals will be affected. That is the way all these new control-freak measures are introduced. But then, the effects will be extended to a group of law-abiding but universally disliked citizens; and then, gradually, throughout the whole of the working class. History has shown that the people will tolerate any abuse of liberties, as long as they can be persuaded that it will only affect those they consider as being somehow inferior to themselves.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @06:57AM (#8438925)
    Ah, but these quotes do not contradict the parent, since they do not outright say that the Federal Reserve is in any way owned by the US Government... which indeed it isn't!

    However words "within the government" quoted from the Fed's site are very misleading, since few people suspect that this alludes to the Fed's status as a privately held corporation which is able to wield governmental authority.

    Yes the Federal Reserve corporation does derive its authority from the US Congress, which is precisely the illegal part. Congress is not constitutionally permitted to delegate this function.

    Why do you think states like Nevada are rebelling [insightmag.com] against the Federal Reserve, introducing bills to legalize their own state currency?

    Check here [givemeliberty.org] for a list of serious grievances knowledgeable folks have with the Federal Reserve system.

    Actually the "Fed" is indeed a private corporation. Its shareholders are known to be major banks, such as Chase Manhattan, Citicorp, etc.

    (And the "federalreserve.gov" should not enjoy a ".gov" top level domain either!)

    For more information, see Test Your FED I.Q. [weholdthesetruths.org]

    The parent post stating the Fed is a private corporation is 100% factual, and its former +5 mod was indeed appropriate, so mods... please restore the post to visibility.

    Lastly, I've taken enough Economics to know that the politically incorrect facts tend not to get any coverage in such classes.
  • by curiuz (587795) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @07:03AM (#8438949)
    A counterindication for having a MRI scan done is having a tattoo [fda.gov]. Obviously, people with tattoos are more likely to be of a subversive persuasion so it makes good sense for the government to infiltrate tattoo parlors... ...or could it just be that magnetic dye particles are conductive and therefore heat in a rapidly varying magnetic field?
  • Re:Haha (Score:1, Interesting)

    by first.last (751698) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @07:59AM (#8439086) Homepage
    But put a meat thermometer in the fucker and sparks will fly. Tried that lil experiment when I was 11.
  • by DredPirateRoberts (585155) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @08:23AM (#8439169)
    I don't know about the security where you are, but where I work those damned alarms never work. There are several other stores in the same complex, and everyone's tags set off the alarms in all the other stores, even if they've been deactivated for the original seller. We don't trust them at all. We watch actual people (you know, with cameras) to see if they're stealing things. And we catch professionals all the time... which could support your argument, I suppose, if they expect our store to act like others do.
  • by dragondm (30289) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @08:49AM (#8439275) Homepage
    You are correct that our currency is not backed by precious metals, and is only worth whatever someone will give you for it. However, gold is only worth what someone will give you for it as well, but fiat currency has the advantage that the government can control the total supply of money, and thus limit inflation.
    You mean "... and thus create inflation", right? You do realize that the purchasing power of a US $ basically did not change from the 1790's until 1933, with the bulk of modern inflation happening after 1960 orso, and that as a result, the US$ is now worth roughly 1/20th of it's origional value. And, yes, the gov't does create inflation deliberately. (And no that's not any sort of conspiricy theory, the Fed flat out says this, albeit in jargon-laden gov't econowonk terms. The rationalization is that inflation spurs the economy by making it cheaper to borrow money (because the money you are paying back is worth less than what you borrowed). I think this is a load of old tripe, myself, but that is the gov'ts idea of it. Of course, knowing that the US gov't is one of the biggest borrowers out there also helps to suggest why they think this is good, as well)
  • Re:'Quotes' (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sjames (1099) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @08:54AM (#8439298) Homepage

    I'm not sure I understand his concerns at all.

    Frankly, it has been years since local or national news programs had any real content other than the weather and sports. The rest is all who shot who, what burned down, and wildly inaccurate stories on science and technology. I fail to see how his feared FEMA takeover would make much difference.

    As for being impossible to bypass, I doubt that very much.

  • Re:illegal? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Genom (3868) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @09:12AM (#8439369)
    I think the most relevant section is this:

    "...with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note,or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued..."

    Intent is the key -- if the intent isn't to make the bill "unfit", the defacement is perfectly legal. This is why the "Where's George" folks can write their URL in the margin of a $1 without a problem. The bill is still perfectly usable.

    Now, writing "VOID" over it, or blacking out the denomination -- that would most likely fall under the 'unfit' definition (although unless you tried to pass one, I can't see where the suits would come knocking)

  • by Epistax (544591) <epistax@gmaiFREEBSDl.com minus bsd> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @09:23AM (#8439444) Journal
    That link proposses that police are called cops because to 'cop' is to steal. I thought police were called cops because their badges were originally copper, so they were called coppers.

    Anyone know which reason is correct?
  • by tiger99 (725715) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @09:23AM (#8439446)
    Yes, and the burn pattern relates to the pattern of standing waves in the oven. It would only take one second (actually a lot less, but we are dealing with oven timers here) to fry an RFID chip. It looks as if he gave them a lot longer.

    They don't know who is actually spending the money, only where it is going, if indeed they have a tracking device, and in any case they will only be able to track within a very short distance (inches) so they can't tell where you have been, only that maybe you pass a sensor occasionally. That tells them very little, conventional surveillance would give them a million times more.

    Of course if it helps catch drug dealers, who then get a life sentence, I am all for it, although I doubt that the technology is that useful somehow.

  • by number6x (626555) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @09:31AM (#8439514)

    Since at least in the 1970's US bills have used magnetic particles suspended in the black ink to help automate the detection of real bills from phony bills.

    This helps vending machines detect the bill as well.

    Your comment about aluminum foil in the microwave is exactly right.

    The magnetic particles in the bills are going to do the same thing. Especially in a stack of bills. The ink in the eye probably lines up in the stack, and is more concentrated than in other parts of the picture.

    The electromagnetic field generated by the microwave will induce a current in the magnetic particles suspended in the ink.

    Twinkle twinkle little star, power equals I-squared * R.

    The resistance will result in heat, and the bills will burn.

    So take off your tin foil hats folks, or at least don't stick your head in the microwave while wearing it!

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @09:51AM (#8439652) Journal
    hummmm. He wraps the cash, walks through with wrapped cash and a wallet and it quits beeping. I would say that is good enough for an experiment.

    I would be far more interested in seeing their cash spread out rather than stacked in the microwave.

    This could create and interesting market for wallets though; Foil lined to prevent signals. They are not passed through metal detectors.
  • by Samrobb (12731) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @09:58AM (#8439696) Homepage Journal
    Yes, they do. You can even buy uncut sheets of them from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

    Steve Wozniak has an interesting story [woz.org] about how he uses sheets of $2 bills on his site. I got a kick out of reading this a few weeks ago:

    You can purchase $1, $2, and now $5 bills from the Bureau of Printing and Engraving on sheets. The sheets come in sizes of 4, 16, and 32 bills each. I buy such sheets of $2 bills. I carry large sheets, folded in my pocket, and sometimes pull out scissors and cut a few off to pay for something in a store. It's just for comedy, as the $2 bills cost nearly $3 each when purchased on sheets. They cost even more at coin stores.


    I take the sheets of 4 bills and have a printer, located through friends, gum them into pads, like stationery pads. The printer then perforates them between the bills, so that I can tear a bill or two away.

    He ended up raising the suspicions of a casion manager in Las Vegas, who called in the Secret Service because he thought the bills were counterfeit...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @10:00AM (#8439715)
    If you look at the list of banks that make up the Federal Reserve, you will discover that they are *all* corporations... it's disingenuous at best to state that the Federal Reserve is *not* private. Rather, it is the best example of corporate control of the Federal government, as it comes from controlling the money that Congress has to spend.

    It's a wonderful scam for the banks, though: Create fiat money from nothing by printing it, loan it to the US Federal Government... and then collect interest on it, making even more money from nothing.

    And then there's the trickle-down effect at the commercial bank level: Fractional reserve laws permit banks to lend more money than they have in reserve, up to 9 times more, IIRC... so for every dollar taken in, they can loan 9, charging interest and again making money from nothing.

    Nice work if you can get it! If a citizen tried it they'd be arrested for counterfeiting.

    The rest of us poor schmucks have to work for our money, and then pay income taxes (and other taxes)on it.

    Other notes about the Federal Reserve: Any audits of it would be conducted by the General Accounting Office. Check the GAO website, you'll not find the results of any Federal Reserve audits because none have ever been conducted.

    The oversight by Congress which you cite is non-existent, any activities that Congress performs with regards to the Federal Reserve are rubber stamps at best - after all, all of Congress knows from where their budget money derives, and it isn't from income taxes, which serve merely to pay down the interest on the debt (and remove money from circulation, thereby helping limit inflation).

    Maybe your post should be moderated "-5, Views World Through Rose-colored Lenses"?
  • by A55M0NKEY (554964) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @10:11AM (#8439806) Homepage Journal
    But there is an easier way of knowing there are no rfid tags in 20 dollar bills. Basically it is that if there *were* rfid tags in $20 bills, then we would already know about it. I'm sure $20.00 bills have been completely disected with a microscope/metal-detector/mass-spectrometer-to-det ermine-ink-composition/whathaveyou by entrepreneurial money hackers ( aka counterfeiters ), and if they found anything this nasty, we'd know.
  • Re:Haha (Score:1, Interesting)

    by tonekids (465665) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @10:44AM (#8440087) Homepage Journal
    I thought that the "worst that can happen" is that the metal could cause hot spots on the cooking chamber walls, possibly warping the door seal and allowing the RF to leak out of the oven?
  • by CrudPuppy (33870) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @10:54AM (#8440186) Homepage

    the authors need to put down the crackpipe and the copy of 1984 and get real.

    an RFID tag would require a conductor. go see for yourself, scrape layer by layer through the whole area by those eyes and you'll find nothing but paper.

    this is NOT to say that there is not an RFID in the new 20-dollar bill, but I certainly assert that there is nothing near the location described by the author.
  • This was in X Files (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stonent1 (594886) <stonentNO@SPAMstonent.pointclark.net> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @11:10AM (#8440322) Journal
    There was a scene where the conspiracy theorist guys pulled the strip out of a 20 dollar bill and revealed a transmitter in it.
  • by fnj (64210) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @11:29AM (#8440559)
    Oh, you are so trusting. Ask the Federal Reserve's site itself if there if there is anything corrupt and unconstitutional going on here. "Of course not, sir, where did you get that idea?"

    It's like asking the cat what happened to the canary.

    The AC's have already pointed the way to the truth. Somebody mod them up.

    All right, I will give you one more reference, and a good one:

    Federal Reserve Act of 1913 Unconstitutional [usiap.org]

    "If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, ... the banks and corporations ... will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered." - Thomas Jefferson
  • Re:Haha (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ward (7051) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @11:51AM (#8440810) Homepage
    While your comments may be correct, I wouldn't cite 'Mythbusters' as a source of factual information.

    The episode with the microwave employed almost zero science, as do most of their experiments. I was surprised that they did not build a microwave out of ballistic gelatin and then say that it had almost exactly the same properties as a real microwave.
  • by jpellino (202698) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @12:20PM (#8441109)
    Here in CT there's a famous grocery store whose founder was charged with skimming $17M from the corporate accounts in order to avoid $6M in taxes. He decided one way to get out with some of the money would be to head for the Carribbean with $80,000 in lots of pads of $20s hidden under baggy clothes. What he failed to take into acount were the metallic printed threads on the newer 20s - the aggregate of which managed to set off the metal detector. What they really got him for was not telling anyone he was leaving the country with more than $10,000. Then it got really bad.
  • Stack of Punch Cards (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Paul the Bold (264588) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @12:24PM (#8441157)
    That a stack of $20 bills burns in a microwave is not proof of an RFID conspiracy. If you take a stack of ordinary paper and put it in the microwave long enough, it burns from the middle. This is an old hacker prank. Back in the days of punch cards, if you put a stack of punch cards in a microwave, they burned from the middle. The top and bottom cards were fine, but the middle ones were charred. (It was a mean prank to play on the card feeder.) Notice the photograph of the bills. Some are charred a little, some are charred a lot. I would lay freshly baked $20 on the fact that the amound of charring is dependant on the depth in the stack.

    I have one follow-up question for Dave and Denise: do the charred bills set off the scanner? This would not be proof, but it may provide contrary evidence to their claim.
  • by Major_Small (720272) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @12:45PM (#8441468) Journal
    that's exactly what I thought when I read this... and since he microwaved them in a tightly packed stack, is there really any surprise they burned in an identical pattern?
  • by llefler (184847) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @12:58PM (#8441628)
    Maybe you just didn't recognize the conductor?

    RFID Ink [rfidjournal.com]
  • Have you ever actually tried it? This really doesn't work. The first time I blew up an egg in a microwave I thought of this and set a heavyish plastic jug over the egg. One minute later and the force of the explosion blew the door of the microwave open and slammed the jug against the opposite kitchen wall. Seriously, there's a lot of power in these things.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @01:06PM (#8441721)
    I did this myself when I was a kid. I had been to the Treasury on a recent DC trip and bought a sheet of, like, 5-6 $2 bills. About three years later, I needed some money and decided I'd just use them. So I went down to the store with the sheet and a pair of scissors and cut a couple off in front of the cashier for a laugh. They took the bills, no problem. Of course, I had to explain where I got them from so they wouldn't get too suspicious.
  • by humble_moon (635847) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @01:30PM (#8441976)
    they said they had a thousand dollars, with the "lion's share" being 20's.. and yes, i'd say they are all pretty uniformly burned.. considering they were in a tight stack.. you know how if you don't seperate out the food in the microwave it doesn't heat up as quick? how you got a +5, interesting is beyond me.. i'll probably be modded down to -1, troll, just for pointing out your poor arguments.
  • by dnoyeb (547705) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @01:36PM (#8442042) Homepage Journal
    Considering every bill already has a serial number, I fail to see the problem.

    You need to be within about 4" to communicate with most RFID tech anyway. And US Govt certainly does not have extra money to add this technology.

    Likely the burn is from the different concentrations of ink in the face of the bill.
  • by plover (150551) * on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @01:37PM (#8442063) Homepage Journal
    I would say it is nowhere near good enough.

    Did he put the foil-wrapped cash back in his wallet? Did that foil-wrapped cash then form a "U" wrapped around the RFID tag leftover in his wallet from the day it was purchased, blocking its signal? We don't know, he didn't say. He didn't say what happened if he separated the bills. He didn't say he tried going through with 49 or 48 bills instead of 50 bills; he apparently didn't try to discover the threshhold of how many bills it takes to set off the Checkpoint sensors. But he goes home and in a separate act of misunderstanding microwaves this same bunch of paper that has metallic and magnetic ink printed in precise locations, and watches it ignite in precisely the same spot on each bill. (Do a google search for "magnetic ink currency" and you'll find an entire industry built around the valdiation of currency via checking the locations of magnetic ink on paper. Here's one to get you started. [counterfei...ipment.com]

    As an aside, reading magnetic ink in a cost-effective manner still requires contact sensors. The only way to read it at a distance currently involves a machine that would very much resemble an MRI scanner. My guess is even this guy would have spotted one of those at the door.

    So, he performed no scientifically valid experimentation at all, but through a series of marginally related accidents convinces himself he's discovered these secret "facts" about money tracking.

    I'm personally surprised he had to go across the street to purchase aluminum foil, and that he didn't just take some out of his hat to use to wrap around the cash. This guy sounds like the poster child for Crackpots Anonymous. I'm almost embarrased to admit I've read this far into the Slashdot comments about it; it's kind of like reading the National Enquirer.

  • Static on wallets? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bobdole369 (267463) <bobdole369&gmail,com> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:48PM (#8442917) Homepage
    I believe there is an issue with certain types of wallets. Eelskin wallets can erase your credit cards. Perhaps this has something to do with it? Don't the RFID scanners scan for magnetism? Wait, this [snopes.com] debunks that theory.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:51PM (#8442950)
    A stack of 50 $20 bills is thin enough that they are headted essentially uniformly by microwaves. It may be that there's differential absorption in the inks, but the important thing is that a stack
    of paper is a damn good insulator.

    So apply heat uniformly to a block, but only let it escape (slowly) from the sides. The middle of the block is going to get really hot.

    Do you notice how his disassembled bills have some less-injured ones on top? They had better cooling.

    There's no magic RFID receiver with explosive anti-tampering protection; it's just that if you pump 1000 watts of power into a small space and don't let it escape, you're going to get some really dramatic heating! Lots of energy in a small space is basically the definition of an explosion.

    The guy left the bills in the microwave too long. You put less than an ounce of anything in the microwave for a minute at full power and see if it doesn't get awfully damn hot...
  • by skotte (262100) <iamthecheeze@gmaQUOTEil.com minus punct> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @02:51PM (#8442961) Homepage
    the only way ... microwave a big tightley packed stack of brand new bills.... they look more like they caught on fire from getting too hot, not like they blew up.

    I can back this up. well, anyone can, of course. Ever microwave a stack of paper? like a small stack, call it money sized, call it index-card sized ...

    same effect.

    I once microwaved some old monopoly money (to kill mold spores, naturally). If i zapped one bill at a time, no big deal. a couple seconds a piece, and they come out warm and mold-free. But do a whole stack .. .. don't do a whole stack.
  • Re:Haha (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sbonds (603944) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:08PM (#8443164)
    F.Y.I. The worst you could do to a microwave by putting metal inside is break the magnatron, and when it breaks, it will just die, not explode or any cool shit like that.


    What happens is the lack of anything to absorb the microwaves causes all the energy to be re-absorbed back into the magnetron, heating it up. Fortunately, the designers of microwave ovens put heat fuses on the magnetrons so they stop working (hopefully) before the tube itself dies. You can heat lots of unusual items relatively safely by putting a mug of cold water in the oven to absorb the excess energy.

    Once upon a time I was employed to actually do microwave oven research, and the duties involved microwaving all kinds of odd things to see what would happen. (Wood pencils are my favorite since they exhibit burn marks at a nice half-wavelength intervals, or about 6cm. Put one in your oven with a small mug of water with the turntable off and see). The research was done in a jury-rigged "oven" that had no safety interlocks or heat fuses.

    When a magnetron is overheated to excess it doesn't explode. The ceramic permanent magnets can crack badly, but I've never seen one explode. It simply doesn't heat up fast enough.

    Most things are unexciting when microwaved. In general, metals just get hot. Tinfoil and neon bulbs were both fun. (foil sparks, bulbs flash.) The only thing I tested that actually exploded was chicken wire wrapped in aluminum foil, and even then it's not a movie-style explosion but simply a nice capactitive buildup until finally the resulting arc rips the foil apart rather dramatically.

    It does make a really nice bang when it goes.

    A far more dramatic explosion could be had by simply heating a thick 1L bottle half-full of water until the steam pressure built up enough for an explosion.
  • by homer_ca (144738) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:57PM (#8443922)
    Coin and bill collectors might disagree with you there. So if I own a 1900 Silver Dollar, it's not my property? By your logic the Treasury can reclaim any rare coins by buying it back at face value.
  • Re:Haha (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sbonds (603944) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:48PM (#8445225)
    Dude, that would be the coolest job evar...


    Yeah, they PAID me to do that. Not a lot, mind you, but it's definately good for storytelling after the fact.

    Best part: burning things for money
    Worst part: accidently burning myself (for money)

    You've never felt a burn until you've been RF-burned. It hurts all the way through.

    Accidently brushing the 4500 volt RF-modulated power supply was also pretty unpleasant.

    But again, both are great for stories. ;-)
  • The real deal.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cartermb (705413) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @05:52PM (#8456490)
    Anyone else take this seriously. I thought maybe it was really possible, so I did some quick googling. According to the folks at RFID journal and Wired magazine, this (RFID tags in money) is on the table for discussion but not in production yet. Anyone else have a different opinion? www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/523/1/2/ http://www.wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,59565,00. html

The rule on staying alive as a forecaster is to give 'em a number or give 'em a date, but never give 'em both at once. -- Jane Bryant Quinn

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