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Terahertz scanners, drugs, and shoes

Mark Gibbs | Sept. 3, 2012
A new technology will make it ridiculously easy to see if you are carrying or have consumed drugs or touched or have explosives on you.

So, terahertz radiation scanning can detect explosives and, according to [a paper on the Genia site][], "pharmacological substances" as well.

But wait! It gets better! This detection doesn't require the person or thing being examined to be in an enclosure or even to be close! The system works by having a terahertz laser generate a pulse from up to around 150 feet away and the reflected radiation will contain "molecular signatures" that can be decoded, so it is claimed, in picoseconds! And this includes signatures of substances in your bloods stream! And the entire system is in what looks like a 3U rack-mounted enclosure!

So, you could have one of these systems pointing down a hallway and scanning every person who walks past in real time! Speck of weed on Bob's shoe? Nailed! Poppy seeds in Ann's pocket? Got her! Vicodin in Dave's briefcase? Wham! Cherry Bomb in Harry's lunch box? Take him down!

If these devices work as proposed, scanning of anyone and everyone anywhere will become commonplace. Forget drug testing in business environments ... you'll just be scanned as you enter. If you have drugs or just their residues on you, or if the metabolites are in your blood stream, they will, it is claimed, be detected.

I wonder whether a more sophisticated computer analysis of terahertz scanning data will allow for the identification of individuals through their own unique combination of molecular signatures?

And then there's the implications for the "War on Drugs" that the U.S. has been expensively (we spent $18.4 billion in 2000 of which only 1% went to prevention, treatment, and research) waging since 1914 (it was Nixon who coined the phrase "War on Drugs," but it was the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act that set the eight ball in motion). Terahertz scanning technology will potentially enable the most comprehensive and secretive wholesale drug screening of U.S. citizens that has ever been conceived! Go anywhere near any government offices and you could be scanned and categorized.

But what will happen to those traveling through Dubai airport? Don't, under any circumstances, go anywhere near any kind of drugs ... not even legal ones unless you have the doctor's prescriptions with you because they'll scan you as you step off the plane and you'll be under interrogation before you know it.

But wait! In 2009, when bank notes were tested for traces of cocaine, the drug was found on 90% of U.S. banknotes along with 85% of Canadian, 80% of Brazilian, 20% of Chinese, and 12% of Japanese. Given the enthusiasm with which the UAE tracks down and incarcerates people for drugs, you might not want to travel with paper money.

Oh, and don't forget to wipe your shoes. Very thoroughly. Hell, better buy a new pair of shoes just in case.



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