TSA Detained Chewbacca Because They Thought His Light Saber Cane was Dangerous


As Peter Mayhew put it, the guy who made Chewbacca all that he is in its hairy presence, “Giant man need giant cane.. small cane snap like toothpick…. besides.. my light saber cane is just cool.. I would miss it.

Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew was detained at Denver International Airport on June 3 because TSA thought his light saber cane was dangerous.  So, his oversized acrylic light saber cane was dangerous.  You guys at the TSA do know that light sabers don’t quite exist yet, right?  You have several of my 8″ crescent wrenches, and definitely a handful of Gerber tools you’ve taken from me over the years.  I still will never understand why you tell me I can have a 7″ crescent wrench but not an 8″ crescent wrench every single time you take one from me.  If I had a 7″ crescent would you tell me I could only have a 6″ crescent?

From an article at CNET:

Mayhew’s explanation for this cane possession was very simple: “Giant man need giant cane.. small cane snap like toothpick…. besides.. my light saber cane is just cool.. I would miss it.”

Who could possibly argue with that? Well, the TSA folks wanted to.

However, quite extraordinarily, American Airlines intervened. Mayhew is an extremely frequent flyer and it seems that someone from the airline may have whispered to the TSA: “Do you really think a famous actor is going to hijack a plane with a lightsaber cane?”

Or words with that same ultimate meaning.

This was not before some of Mayhew’s Twitter followers made merry with this terrestrial nonsense.

One, Shane Moore, offered: “@TheWookieeRoars Chewie hijacks plane with light saber… takes passengers to Kashyyyk. Story tonight at 10!”

Mr. Mayhew, who goes by TheWookieeRoars on Twitter, took to Twitter to let the world know what was up.  Chewbacca was just flying home from the Denver Comi-con, and TSA decided to snag his cane because it “looked dangerous.”  After a little bit, some magic happened — TSA released a statement because Mayhew sent out a tweet to 20,000+ followers.  As you’ll notice in the picture above, it took three TSA agents to detain Mr. Mayhew, and I’m sure an entire communications department to decide what they should do that someone called them out on being ridiculous.  Oh, I love paying tax money for these people.  I have no job, and they have eleventy jobs.

Ah, bureaucracy.

Here’s a better shot of that awesome cane:


How to Get Anything Through TSA’s Nude Body Scanners?

Oh my.

I’ve been pretty critical of the TSA and the Millimeter Wave technology in the past, but I’m nothing like this guy – this man took it upon himself to prove that Millimeter Wave tech doesn’t work.  Check this out:

This video is here to demonstrate that the TSA’s insistence that the nude body scanner program is effective and necessary is nothing but a fraud, just like their claims that the program is safe (radiation what?) and non-invasive (nude pictures who?). This video is not intended to teach anyone how to commit criminal acts, nor is intended to help “the terrorists” — if I could figure this out, I’m sure they’ve long figured it out, and by exposing it to the public, we now have an opportunity to correct it. The scanners are now effectively worthless, as anyone can beat them with virtually no effort. The TSA has been provided this video in advance of it being made public to give them an opportunity to turn off the scanners and revert to the metal detectors. I personally believe they now have no choice but to turn them off.

Please share this video with your family, friends, and most importantly, elected officials in federal government. Make sure they understand that your vote is contingent on them fixing the abuse that 200,000 passengers face from the TSA on a daily basis.

Crazy.  How do you feel now?

(Also, I wonder how long before I get the dreaded ‘SSSS‘ on my boarding passes…)

Scanning for Explosives in Body Cavities

I wrote about some body scanning technology (backscatter and millimeter wave) that is being implemented in airports around the world a little while ago, and I just read about some new technology that is being touted as the new frontier in the area of detecting explosives…

…in the body cavities.

Oh yeah.  I cannot wait until Jon Stewart reports on this – “now there’s a scanning technology that can detect the explosive power of Semtex in your anal cavity and differentiate it from the explosive power of Taco Bell in your anal cavity.”  Le sigh.  Now we have to worry about would-be terrorists hiding explosives in their anal cavities?!  Wasn’t it bad enough that we had to be concerned about the Underpants Bomber trying to light his junk on fire to blow up a plane?

Believe it or not, there has been one reported attempt of a d-bag terrorist trying to kill somebody by hiding explosives in that place – a Saudi prince – who was attacked by some idiot called Abdullah Hassan Al Aseeri.  Aseeri stuffed an IED in the rear and went after the Saudi prince.  The prince survived, but as you can imagine, Aseeri was blown into little chunks.

Well, regardless of the situation, there’s this new tech out now called DEXI – diffraction-enhanced X-ray imaging.  Instead of just analyzing the x-rays that pass through the body or that are reflected off of the body, this new DEXI technology analyzes the x-rays that get scattered by soft tissue or other low-density material.  This technology comes to the market from a company in Crown Point, Indiana called Nesch.

From an article at Danger Room:

“Our patented technology can detect substances such as explosive materials, narcotics, and low-density plastics hidden inside or outside of the human body,” company CEO Ivan Nesch claims. DEXI allows explosives to create contrast, he adds, so it would be able to detect both the underpants bomber and the shoe bomber before they boarded.

The image above shows how a conventional radiograph does not detect two packets of “illegal materials” concealed in soft tissue, while they are plainly visible in when DEXI technology is used.

The process of taking the images, analyzing them, and then recognizing substances of interest – such as explosives – can be automated. Alerts issued can be computer-generated. Security staff would simply have to get passengers in and out of the imaging unit.

“The initial expected throughput is approximately one to two passengers a minute,” according to Nesch. “Once installed and tested in real applications, the throughput will be increased.”

One or two people per minute? Holy moly. As if we didn’t have long enough to stand in line through security now.

Why exactly does this technology work so well?  Again, Ivan Nesch – from an article at Purdue University:

“X-ray absorption is the basis of conventional radiography, but carbon, nitrogen and oxygen do not absorb X-rays well. Explosives and narcotics are typically made of these elements. Conventional radiography detects these objects poorly due to its exclusive reliance on absorption,” said Ivan Nesch, CEO. “DEXI is different because it uses X-ray refraction and scattering to construct images, along with absorption. It can detect explosives and narcotics because they noticeably refract and scatter X-rays.”

DEXI’s claim to safety fame is their corporate slogan:  “Less radiation, more information.”  Nesch claims that passengers scanned by NEXI technology are exposed to 50 times less radiation than those scanned by a conventional radiograph.  Well, at least there’s something.  I guess I’d rather have TSA looking in my behind than be dead.

An image scanned with a conventional radiograph vs. a DEXI scan:

On a lighter note, this technology makes me want to have a nice large meal of Taco Bell, KFC, and Burger King ten hours before heading to the airport so I can give the pleasant and friendly TSA employees something interesting to look at while they get to check out all kinds of my personal space.  Make sure to eat some corn.

Airport Scanners – Got Any Piercings, Folks? TSA’s Gonna See Them

There has been a lot of hubbub about the airport scanning technology after a wannabe terrorist tried to light his own underpants on fire to blow up a jet on Christmas Day of all days.  The argument basically goes like this:

“It’s an invasion of my privacy and my safety for you to see me naked so you can pretend that I’m a risk.”
“No it isn’t, we need to see you naked to see if you have dangerous things you’re trying to bring on planes.”

Image by ImYourWorstEnemy on Flickr

Hmm.  I really don’t have the desire to “shake everything I brought” in front of the TSA.  Is there not a better way to do this?  Just so you know, lots and lots of politicians are totally on board with this airport scanner thing – as a matter of fact, <sarcasm> trustworthy people with rigid beliefs </sarcasm> like Joe Lieberman, the Demublican senator from Connecticut.  Joe recently asked a question at an announcing hearing about the whole incident over Christmas Day and how we need to have better airport security:

“We were very lucky this time but we may not be so lucky next time, which is why our defenses must be strengthened. What we know about the Abdulmutallab case raises two big, urgent questions that we are holding this hearing to answer: Why aren’t airline passengers flying into the U.S. checked against the broadest terrorist database and why isn’t whole body scanning technology that can detect explosives in wider use?”

Looks like we’ll see them all over the place in no time.

This is a blog about light, so I want to write a few things at least about the technology that have nothing to do with anyone’s opinion.  Taken for face value, the technology is interesting.  It comes in two forms – “backscattering” x-ray (2 dimensional) and “millimeter wave” (3 dimensional) devices, using terrahertz radio frequency.  Interestingly enough, people have health concerns over both of these technologies, and everyone who dislikes the scanners says they don’t like the breach in their personal comfort.

As far as health issues go, the backscattering x-ray devices deliver a very minimal amount of radiation – according to an article by Julia Clayton of HowStuffWorks, backscattering scanners deliver “approximately 0.005 millirems of radiation [per scan per person]; American Science and Engineering Inc. reports 0.009 mrems.  According to U.S. regulatory agencies, “1 mrem per year is a negligible dose of radiation, and 25 mrem per year from a single source is the upper limit of safe radiation exposure”.  Think of it like this – backscattering x-ray are different than medical x-rays because they don’t primarily travel through you, they record the radiation that is reflected off of your body and foreign material on your body.  Backscatter scans are front and back – 2D.

Millimeter wave technology is also interesting with regards to health – the technology uses very, very high frequency radio waves (in the Terahertz range, or T-waves, per Wikipedia, and the scan travels around your body to create a sort of 3D image.  They also measure the waves coming back from your body, but they measure radio waves, not radiation.  The major health issue associated with the millimeter wave tech is on a DNA-level plane – the problem is that no one knows if the technology interacts with double-stranded DNA, which could cause bubbles in the strands, causing all kinds of epic fail.  Here’s a millimeter wave scan – notice the difference between it and the image above, and how the detail is different, less descriptive, but detailed in its own right:


I am not in the business of promoting any of these scanners, believe me – one company who sells the scanners, MilliVision, had an interesting video on their millimeter wave technology.  Check it out:

Something I found interesting came from an article at Wired – you’ve all seen this image below, right?


This woman shape is actually Susan Hallowell, director of the Transportation Security Administration’s security laboratory.  After she stepped into the scanner and had this image taken, apparently she blushed and said “”It does basically make you look fat and naked, but you see all this stuff.”

For the record, this technology has been used for a long time – at least a decade – for screening South African diamond mine workers after their shifts for theft.  The shame is that the technology is actually pretty interesting, and it’s worth being developed somewhere.  I’m still just unsure that it needs to be developed while people I don’t know who for the most part treat me like I just committed a felony AND get to see me naked.

You know what I think, what do you think?  Is the body scanner too pervasive for you?  Take the poll!

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.


Thanks Wired, Article World, Wikipedia, and Epic!

How to Fold A Drawing

I seem to have this argument with architects mostly, but as far as I’m concerned, if you have less than 10 pages of drawings, you can fold them as opposed to rolling them.  It’s wonderful to pay a few bucks to throw a drawing or two (or five) into a manilla envelope and ship them away.  It’s also considerably easier to travel them through an airport when they’re folded – TSA certainly can’t mistake a folded drawing for a bazooka or some other ridiculous excuse to go through all of your stuff because you have a rolled drawing in a tube.

Check out this video I made for you all: