Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Australia Shark Technology

Laser Prototype Improves Bomb Detection 59

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-more-boom dept.
angry tapir writes "Scientists at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have developed a prototype laser device capable of detecting tiny traces of explosive vapor, an invention that has the potential to put bomb sniffer dogs out of a job. The prototype – a pulsed, quantum laser-based, cavity ring-down spectrometer – is being tested at the US government's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Laser Prototype Improves Bomb Detection

Comments Filter:
  • by Hagaric (2591241) on Monday December 10, 2012 @03:08PM (#42244641)

    I clicked on this thinking it said "Laser Prototype Improves Bomb Detonation" and am disappointed..

    • by kc67 (2789711)
      The ability to detect tiny traces of explosive vapor should not be disappointing. It has the potential to save a lot of lives.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10, 2012 @03:20PM (#42244749)
        Yeah, now legitimate, law-abiding gun owners can be arrested and labeled as terrorists for attempting to board an airplane after going to the gun range several days earlier.
        • Why don't they make investment into areas that would result in well-being and abundances - eliminating the threat of anyone resorting to use of explosives?

          Could it be, that there are powerful, elite interests that wish us to be frightened and fighting?

          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            Why don't they make investment into areas that would result in well-being and abundances - eliminating the threat of anyone resorting to use of explosives?

            Because well-being and abundances have nothing to do with people who want to use explosives to blow things up? I.e., you won't eliminate the threat.

          • by c0lo (1497653)

            Why don't they make investment into areas that would result in well-being and abundances?

            Paupers pay less, but still pay; the risk with well-being and abundance...where's the need to want something bad enough if you have the lot of the rest? Maybe... God forbids... one reaches the conclusion they can do without?

            (although... looking at Apple fans, I would say there are slim chances for this to happen)

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          I want to know what gun range you go to gets plastique residues all over you...

        • by mikael (484)

          Or if you live next to a quarry - my laptop once tested positive for explosive residue after I had left the window open and a cloud of dust had blown over our house.

        • by BlueStrat (756137)

          Yeah, now legitimate, law-abiding gun owners can be arrested and labeled as terrorists for attempting to board an airplane after going to the gun range several days earlier.

          Not just gun owners.

          Guitar players, too.

          Many of the most popular guitar picks, like the Fender Heavy picks I use, are celluloid. Which when used wear down, producing nitrocellulose dust.

          That's nitrocellulose. Also known as gun-cotton which, when soaked with nitroglycerin and formed into sticks, makes dynamite.

          Just try putting a flame to a celluloid pick sometime. Be prepared with a large ashtray or something fireproof to drop it into immediately, as it will flare into flame quite energetically with a small

        • you'd think, but apparently it doesn't work like that.

          GSR is apparently different than bombs resisude wise. I did a shooting course once so intense I was sneezing GSR from my boogers for weeks. (shot 10,000 rounds in a week, various guns), immediately after I went home via airplane, and the dogs walked right past me.

          people who work in demolition, do get stopped regularlly.
      • by kiriath (2670145)

        But think of how many dogs will be out of the job in this country.

        How many dogs have to loose their job before we stop trying to replace everything with robots?

  • How many people will set this off because they inadvertently picked up trace elements of an explosive vapor - will car exhaust fumes set this off? In what context do we really care about the existence of parts per billion amounts of explosive vapors? This might be an impressive technical achievement, but the commercial uses of this seem like a solution in search of a problem.
    • by rally2xs (1093023)

      The context is... IED detection. Sweeping a road for IEDs could be more successful and that would be a good thing if AQ can pull itself back together after we leave Afghanistan and the middle east. They will be sending people here to put IED's on the road that you take to work. Not hard, just park a car full of explosives with a detector that will set it off when there are 3 or more cars within 50 feet. That'd be you, in traffic. But if the cops have such a detector, they can shut down the road, and c

      • Ehm... in Australia? If you read the article, it talks of 2 applications, I quote:

        • "detect explosive residue at crime scenes"
        • "replace intrusive airport security checks such as pat downs and full body scans and bomb sniffer dogs"

        Not saying this wouldn't be interesting for the US military, but that was clearly not the target of this research.

        • by rally2xs (1093023)

          Lotsa stuff gets used for things that it wasn't invented for, such as dynamite... I understand Alfred Nobel was a bit upset at the not-so-good applications his invention had been put to.

      • by jammer170 (895458)
        That doesn't fit with the description at all. The device that was developed sounds like something that is fixed in place - not something that will lugged around with the military. Even if it could, a car filled with explosives is not exactly something we need to analyze at a parts-per-billion level. This device is used to detect something trying to be hidden, but the false positive rate sounds like it is going to be way too high to be of any use.
      • by Entropius (188861)

        So you mean that someone can plant a bag of fertilizer somewhere by a road and waste vast amounts of the US military's time searching for the bomb?

        Sounds like a great way to bleed us dry!

    • by sosume (680416)

      Do you really believe this will be used against explosives? This is a wet dream for the DEA. Buy a bunch and callibrate each to a specific illegal drug. Install in a truck, visit all the music festivals, and the economic crisis is over.

      • Install in a truck, visit all the music festivals, and the economic crisis is over.

        Methinks thou hast put a bit much faith in the fiscal acuity of the common homo hackysackius, i.e. your average music fest goer.

        • They'll just seize every car that tests positive to drug residue under civil forfeiture and sell the cars. Easy money.
          • They'll just seize every car that tests positive to drug residue under civil forfeiture and sell the cars. Easy money.

            I was going to make a snarky remark about how you seem to be under the impression that hippies actually own cars with more than scrap value, which leads me to assume you don't know any actual hippies.

            Then I got to thinking about the types of people I remember seeing at the music festivals I used to go to - in addition to the hippies, you also get a large number of lawyers' kids and trust-fund babies (i.e., the 'idle rich), who have nothing better to do than spend mommy and daddy's money on dope.

            Of cou

        • by sosume (680416)

          No, no, just throw them all in jail. It will free up a lot of jobs as well as creating a huge boost for the penal industry.

          • No, no, just throw them all in jail. It will free up a lot of jobs as well as creating a huge boost for the penal industry.

            C'mon now, you know better than that - since when do hippies have jobs?

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday December 10, 2012 @03:17PM (#42244723) Homepage

    As with anything like this, the more sensitive you make it, the more you might have to deal with false positives.

    I can only imagine someone going around bumping into people at the airport making sure they all smell like something which will trigger something like this.

    It wouldn't be anything more disruptive than suddenly loads of people in the airport get checked for bombs, but I bet you could terribly mess up an airport if you suddenly had a handful of people testing positive.

    Of course, to be going around doing this you'd need to smell of bomb residue and probably be seen on surveillance cameras doing it. But for all I know some common household chemicals could cause this now.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday December 10, 2012 @03:31PM (#42244861) Homepage

      Of course, to be going around doing this you'd need to smell of bomb residue and probably be seen on surveillance cameras doing it.

      That doesn't matter. What matters is that you can deposit a chemical on a large number of others who have a high probability of going quickly to an airport security check. You never need to go near the sensors yourself.

      One easy exploit is to rig a aerosol dispersal into a car's exhaust, then drive through a departures drop-off area a few times. Alternatively, contaminate the air around a rental car return. If the airport is one of those with significant public areas outside the secure area, a purse with an occasionally-puffing atomizer will be practically unnoticeable. Better yet, disguise the purse-riding atomizer as a wallet, and confess to coming to the airport in the middle of a pickpocketing spree. Bonus points if the pickpocketing is also staged for the benefit of cameras.

      Taking another easy route, we could assume that contact's necessary to spread the scent to a person. That's also easy enough to accomplish. How many countertops, queue barrier posts, and restroom faucets are in an airport? With a small team of pre-contaminated guests with many complaints and small bladders, a barely-noticeable compound can be spread to hundreds of unsuspecting participants easily.

      And with that, I'm probably now on yet another list...

      • You could do that now. Order some uranium off of ebay, smack it with a hammer to turn it into dusts, sprinkle on the mat at the departures section so every tracks it all over the airport and watch the Chaos. Frankly, I'm surprised it hasn't already happened.

        • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday December 10, 2012 @03:58PM (#42245185) Homepage

          It hasn't happened because it doesn't need to yet. I hate being one of those guys who says the terrorists have already won, but the terrorists have already won. An aspect of American daily life is interrupted by a constant reminder of how we pissed off somebody else. Once the privacy advocates fight enough, and enough time has passed to calm the politicians, the ridiculous security theater will relax... then there will be another incident to remind us that we will never be safe, and never really were.

          The only way to return to normal convenient-yet-insecure life is to let attacks happen with no reaction, but that goes against human instinct.

    • by Entropius (188861)

      Do that, causing a backup in the security line ... then send a suicide bomber with a wheelie-suitcase full of explosives, shrapnel, and warfarin powder into the line. Cue giant bloody mess with many, many dead people.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    has the potential to put bomb sniffer dogs out of a job.

    Or it could give birth to laser-sighted dogs.

  • by raftpeople (844215) on Monday December 10, 2012 @03:22PM (#42244779)
    our laser set it off
  • I'll believe it when it is well past prototype and challenged by people and not lab results.

    But the reality is it WILL NOT alter the delays in traveling. TSA will still do instrusive checks, will still have Xrays etc. You still have to be treated like cattle for this false sense of security.

    Seriously, there are wonderful things like vacuum seals.

  • by RaymondRuptime (596393) <raymond AT ruptime DOT com> on Monday December 10, 2012 @04:28PM (#42245479) Homepage

    Why spend money on a laser that's not biodegradable, when instead you can just get Israeli bomb-sniffing mice [rawstory.com]?

    • Israeli bomb-sniffing mice

      Because Israeli bomb-sniffing mice steal airplane jet engines, so you can't use them in airports.

      Crafty little devils, those mice, they are.

      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        Crafty little devils, those mice, they are.

        It's fairly well accepted that Israeli mice are merely the protrusion into our dimension of hyper-intelligent pan-dimension beings who, unbeknownst to the human race, are the most intelligent species on the planet Earth. They spent a lot of their time in laboratories running complex experiments on man, apparently with jet engines.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          How can it be both "fairly well accepted" and "unbeknownst to the human race" ?

  • Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nospam007 (722110) * on Monday December 10, 2012 @04:50PM (#42245731)

    "...pulsed, quantum laser-based, cavity ring-down spectrometer..."

    A fucking PQLBCRDS ?

    You guys need a better marketing team.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... the potential to put bomb sniffer dogs out of a job.

    Correction: ... the potential to make the same mistakes as other bomb-sniffer devices.

    Does this test for common nitrates? If so, it will produce the same false-positives as current airport scanners.

  • by Fuzzums (250400) on Monday December 10, 2012 @05:37PM (#42246217) Homepage

    http://www.apopo.org/home.php?lang=en [apopo.org]

    Easy to train, easy to maintain, cheap and multifunctional.
    The laser technology definitely is cool, but I like the rat solution.

  • ...what could possibly go wrong?
  • Any number of google-available headlines read "dogs fail bomb-sniffing test." There are plenty of studies which show that bomb, and drug, sniffing dogs "detect" objects their handlers want them to detect.

    Almost any residue detector would be better.

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

Working...