The DHS' new molecular scanner sees everything

Imagine a device that can instantly tell if you may have been involved in a drug deal, recently fired a gun, what you just ate, and if you're hiding anything under your clothes. Sounds like sci-fi? Don't worry, it's not – it's just the latest wonderfully intrusive project from your friends at the Department of Homeland Security.

Alright, so the whole deal sounds a little bit far-fetched, and it's hard not to lean a little towards the skeptical side of things. But if such a device were plausible (the DHS says that they'll be employing them in the field within a couple of years), it would give whoever was controlling it an unprecedented level of observation. If you thought the naked airport scanners were creepy, you ain't seen nothing yet.

The machine, which looks a little bit like an old radio, is being built by a company called Genia Photonics. Basically, it shoots a laser off into the distance and, for what is for all intents and purposes instantaneously, sends data on a molecular level back to a computer which analyzes the wavelengths and patterns to figure out what it's looking at. Not only does that mean it will be able to tell if you're trying to hide a gun, it also means that it'll know if you have any traces of drugs on your body or, if someone cared, how many hairs were on your head.

Originally, Genia was aiming for something a bit more 'positive' than playing Big Brother. They hold 30 patents based around their scanner technology, ranging from identifying cancer cells to keeping harmful chemicals out of manufacturing processes. The DHS thought it was a little too good to pass up, though.

And unlike the scanners and metal detectors you encounter in airports today, Genia Photonics' molecular scanner doesn't need you to stand still, or walk through a silly little archway. Oh no; if you want to avoid it, you're out of luck, because it's totally unobtrusive. On one hand, that could mean that you'll get in and out of security faster, since the scanner can do its job so much faster, and on a much larger scale, than anything we've got today. On the other hand, it means that it scans anything unlucky enough to step into its radius (about 164 feet).

Despite the huge benefits these scanners could offer, they end up sounding way more like something from dystopian sci-fi than some sort of life saving device. Heck, a team at George Washington University even developed a similar system that could detect drug metabolites in urine instantaneously. And while we're not so sure about how well it'll work in the field, this technology is almost here, and the privacy implications are stunning. Who knows, maybe you'll (not) see one in a bathroom near you in the near future.

Source: Gizmodo | Image via Gizmodo

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Wonder if there are any plans for medical use of these scanners - sounds like they could be a bit of a game-changer, and i'd rather it was put to that type of work.

Pygmy_Hippo said,
Wonder if there are any plans for medical use of these scanners - sounds like they could be a bit of a game-changer, and i'd rather it was put to that type of work.

Initiating scan:
Sensors picking up cancer unit just created.
Scan successful.

Just based on what I've seen on these comments, it sounds like people have seen little to none of what is actually going on as far as the TSA is concerned. I am happy to help out with that! First, I will tell you where you won't get much if any info, which is any major news network on TV/Cable as well as their sites. I suggest my blog as a good place to start. I grab articles from 9 different news sources daily, but these sources are verified to be without any corporate infuence whatsoever.

You can find my blog here: http://blog.smidesign.info

I've only been doing this since December, so there is only a little over 40 articles about the TSA at the moment. I'm sure you can find way more articles if you search google or a site that has been doing this longer than myself. The choice is up to you.

PimpHesus said,
Just based on what I've seen on these comments, it sounds like people have seen little to none of what is actually going on as far as the TSA is concerned. I am happy to help out with that! First, I will tell you where you won't get much if any info, which is any major news network on TV/Cable as well as their sites. I suggest my blog as a good place to start. I grab articles from 9 different news sources daily, but these sources are verified to be without any corporate infuence whatsoever.

You can find my blog here: http://blog.smidesign.info

I've only been doing this since December, so there is only a little over 40 articles about the TSA at the moment. I'm sure you can find way more articles if you search google or a site that has been doing this longer than myself. The choice is up to you.


Uhmmm... so you didnt really say anything here. I wont be visiting your blog site either....

este said,

Uhmmm... so you didnt really say anything here. I wont be visiting your blog site either....

Fair enough, so I will bring an interesting fact or two. Number one, TSA hires pedophiles as well as robbers. When you get 'aggressively' searched that means their gonna grab your balls hard to make you feel uncomfortable. If you sew a pocket on the inside of your shirt you can get by the naked body scanners with just about anything. These are just a few things that people don't know.

I'm perfectly OK with these scanning for drugs, guns and explosives at an airport. However it'll soon be deployed to scan private citizens any where they want, such as your home. Illegal wiretapping was just the beginning.

abysal said,
I'm perfectly OK with these scanning for drugs, guns and explosives at an airport. However it'll soon be deployed to scan private citizens any where they want, such as your home. Illegal wiretapping was just the beginning.

Exactly. This thing will (eventually) be used for all of the wrong reasons. How often do major high profile events occur to warrant the need of this thing to be used in everyday life? not often enough is the answer.

Headlines 2018: Whoops, were we wrong. In fact, they make you smarter.

Headlines 2019: There are no headlines, everyone is dead after nuclear fallout. Whoops!

See, what I did there? I too can make stupid shi* up.

I think people take privacy way to far.. Who cares if they know how many hairs are on my head and if you have a gun or have handled drugs you deserve to be caught..

statm1 said,
I think people take privacy way to far.. Who cares if they know how many hairs are on my head and if you have a gun or have handled drugs you deserve to be caught..

Exactly. It's not whether they know if you handled drugs, it's if they can get conviction and have it stand up on appeal, when it may be a mistake (you passed by someone who handled drugs, for instance.) Internet Paranoids automatically assume the worse case scenario, they moan and groan about the TSA 'fondling' people, then when someone comes along that would eliminate that, they find something else to complain about. Classic clinical paranoia imo.

This would be awesome if these could detect all common explosives, we could put them everywhere and have the cops instantly alerted before a bomb goes off and kills people, maybe one day they'll even be cheap enough to mass produce and cover all the major populated areas of the middle east and so on. Terrorists would have to go back to their day jobs of sweeping up camel dung.

J_R_G said,

Exactly. It's not whether they know if you handled drugs, it's if they can get conviction and have it stand up on appeal, when it may be a mistake (you passed by someone who handled drugs, for instance.) Internet Paranoids automatically assume the worse case scenario, they moan and groan about the TSA 'fondling' people, then when someone comes along that would eliminate that, they find something else to complain about. Classic clinical paranoia imo.

This would be awesome if these could detect all common explosives, we could put them everywhere and have the cops instantly alerted before a bomb goes off and kills people, maybe one day they'll even be cheap enough to mass produce and cover all the major populated areas of the middle east and so on. Terrorists would have to go back to their day jobs of sweeping up camel dung.

Since you don't like freedom why don't you go move to Russia.

statm1 said,
I think people take privacy way to far.. Who cares if they know how many hairs are on my head and if you have a gun or have handled drugs you deserve to be caught..

Except guns are legal and drugs are legal in some places. So why do these law abiding citizens need to be caught exactly? And who tells us what's outlawed and what isn't?

J_R_G said,
Exactly. It's not whether they know if you handled drugs, it's if they can get conviction and have it stand up on appeal, when it may be a mistake (you passed by someone who handled drugs, for instance.) Internet Paranoids automatically assume the worse case scenario, they moan and groan about the TSA 'fondling' people, then when someone comes along that would eliminate that, they find something else to complain about. Classic clinical paranoia imo.

This would be awesome if these could detect all common explosives, we could put them everywhere and have the cops instantly alerted before a bomb goes off and kills people, maybe one day they'll even be cheap enough to mass produce and cover all the major populated areas of the middle east and so on. Terrorists would have to go back to their day jobs of sweeping up camel dung.

Actually, paranoia starts when you think everyone needs to be scanned for guns, drugs, and explosives. And that guns, drugs, and explosives are coming to harm you on a daily basis. Enjoy your lack of freedom because you're paranoid.

statm1 said,
I think people take privacy way to far.. Who cares if they know how many hairs are on my head and if you have a gun or have handled drugs you deserve to be caught..

...and the brainwashing was a success folks. I break the law every day. Either going 5 miles over the speed limit, spitting on the sidewalk, or even throwing regular trash in the recycle can.

JesseJ said,

Except guns are legal and drugs are legal in some places. So why do these law abiding citizens need to be caught exactly? And who tells us what's outlawed and what isn't?

Obviously Jessie.. If its legal for you to have it then its easy to fix now isn't it. But there is no reason for you to have a gun in an airport. And technically everyone is already being scanned by the metal detector.. So whats the difference.
Patrick Danielson said,

...and the brainwashing was a success folks. I break the law every day. Either going 5 miles over the speed limit, spitting on the sidewalk, or even throwing regular trash in the recycle can.


Brainwashing my a**.. Tell me one negative aspect for getting scanned when you aren't even aware of it and it doesn't negatively impact you in anyway? (Unless it causes cancer.....)

statm1 said,

Brainwashing my a**.. Tell me one negative aspect for getting scanned when you aren't even aware of it and it doesn't negatively impact you in anyway? (Unless it causes cancer.....)

How about because I have to pay for all this bull**** they subject me to? I could perhaps understand this treatment between flights entering and leaving the country, and maybe for flights between the States. But the real point is the government shouldn't be treating its citizens as if they've already committed a crime. Are these solutions really needed? Is there a huge problem of people going on planes with guns or drugs? Ever thought that maybe they're trying a little too hard to solve a problem that's not much of a problem to begin with? Do you think the knuckle-draggers of the TSA are keeping the planes from falling out of the sky or that most people simply want to get from point A to point B without having to deal with any bull****?

What if in the future they *could* read your mind and know if you're going to commit a crime? Sounds like science fiction - but so did stuff like this article 50 years ago. The ends don't always justify the means, even if the means are "unobtrusive" or for our "safety and security". And people should be paranoid of the government; it's the only entity capable of securing total power over us if we let it. Governments have a long history of enslaving and exploiting their people, so I think a little paranoia is reasonable.

Vlad said,

How about because I have to pay for all this bull**** they subject me to? I could perhaps understand this treatment between flights entering and leaving the country, and maybe for flights between the States. But the real point is the government shouldn't be treating its citizens as if they've already committed a crime. Are these solutions really needed? Is there a huge problem of people going on planes with guns or drugs? Ever thought that maybe they're trying a little too hard to solve a problem that's not much of a problem to begin with? Do you think the knuckle-draggers of the TSA are keeping the planes from falling out of the sky or that most people simply want to get from point A to point B without having to deal with any bull****?

I really do not understand what the big deal is. The government is not treating it's citizens and criminals, but security has to assume that everyone could potentially be a threat.

Your acting like they strip you down and try and beat a confession out of you.

JesseJ said,

Actually, paranoia starts when you think everyone needs to be scanned for guns, drugs, and explosives. And that guns, drugs, and explosives are coming to harm you on a daily basis. Enjoy your lack of freedom because you're paranoid.

1. Everyone needs to be scanned all the time because they obviously don't know who the threats or when they are going to strike... DUH!

2. How exactly does being scanned impact your freedom? If being scanned is such a big deal then don't go.

statm1 said,
I think people take privacy way to far.. Who cares if they know how many hairs are on my head and if you have a gun or have handled drugs you deserve to be caught..
That's how German Jews felt before their little incident.... Their famous words "You have nothing to worry about if you've done nothing wrong"... until it was wrong to be Jewish in Germany during that time.

statm1 said,
I think people take privacy way to far.. Who cares if they know how many hairs are on my head and if you have a gun or have handled drugs you deserve to be caught..
So you deserve to get caught. How many dollar bills in the US have traces of cocaine on them again??? Huh?

I'll be waiting right here for your reply, dimwit...

Lamp0 said,

1. Everyone needs to be scanned all the time because they obviously don't know who the threats or when they are going to strike... DUH!

2. How exactly does being scanned impact your freedom? If being scanned is such a big deal then don't go.

I won't go. Then again, how do I avoid them once they are put on cop cars and street corners, stay in my house? **** off.

This is America and people are such sheep these days. If you don't have reasonable cause to justify something - you can't do it. However, people are so scared of Muhammad blowing up cars during rush hour and wondering if their jslist suit will hold up the the next VX attack.... oh wait.

This has nothing to do with "are you doing something wrong" nothing at all. It has to do with you not needing or getting to know anything about me without reason or me offering it to you. You don't get to know what I ate this morning if I don't tell you. You don't get to know when and with whom I just had sex with unless I tell you. You don't get to know anything unless there is a reason or I tell you.

statm1 said,
I think people take privacy way to far.. Who cares if they know how many hairs are on my head and if you have a gun or have handled drugs you deserve to be caught..

I appreciate your response, but it's legal to carry guns with a permit. Do you think this technology can verify if you have a permit? Also, drugs being illegal is a relatively new thing in the world, and many states are sensible enough to try and decriminalize certain ones (marijuana). Did you know George Washington had a marijuana plant that his slaves worked for him? Bet you didn't. Did you know that many of the people you watch in movies smoke marijuana, or how about top CEOs and business-men, the people who handle your finances? Stock brokers? Of course there are harder drugs out there (and potentially more dangerous), but why is the government allowed to say what substance we should/should not be allowed to put into our bodies?

Oh yeah, because marijuana was at risk of putting timber companies out of business a long time ago because, marijuana, go figure, is really good for making all sorts of non-drug things (like paper, string, and other stuff too). So timber companies lobbied the government, paid people off, and became classified with the other hard drugs. The classification alone makes it illegal and difficult for there to be any sensible study done with the drugs (many in the science communities think these drugs /should/ be studied for medical benefits). Alas, scared prescription drug companies lobby against this sort of thing because of the potential loss of profit it would mean for them - screw the people - screw you - keep it illegal so /they/ make a few more bucks and their top executives can afford yet another car, or a third mansion, and a fourth pool, or an island or something.

Yeah, you got it right. Screw people, as long as the big companies are making money. Imagine of England didn't allow it's citizens to carry guns - without firearms we couldn't have won that war. Imagine if things like marijuana were not illegal, or at least, if the penalties were not so stupidly extreme. Call it a tax relief, that's what it would be. Our government hires private companies to run prisons - that is your tax dollars going to some company to keep other people in cages. They've gotten in trouble before for paying off judges to send more people to jail rather than lesser (more appropriate) penalties, because they get paid more per bed filled. I'm sure they love the fact that about half of all people in jail within the US are non-violent marijuana offenders. Having this many people in jail wastes our tax dollars, as we've seen in every other developed country in the world - keeping these people in jail is not needed. In Amsterdam you can walk into bars and buy marijuana - and smoke it right there on the spot!, it's illegal, not /not enforced/.

So next time you have an idea to post something, think about what you're posting. What kind of general statement are you making, does it even make sense? If the government starts using these, it means more tax dollars of ours going to waste. Why buy these and not fund schools, or roads, or helping people to get jobs, or paying for healthcare? There's more important things we should think about. The amount of people in the country that die due to car accidents is less than the amount that due to cigarettes. But some very big tobacco companies are lobbying to keep their industry alive, they even make billboards, and pay to have their products on TV advertisements. Yet, we'll just go along thinking that guns and drugs are the worst things, regardless of proven facts.

How ignorant are you, anyway?

And the award for the biggest tangent taken on my simple response goes to...

As I said before.. If you have a permit quit bitc**n, show them the permit, and go on your way.. Its not rocket science.....

Samething with weed.. If you have a medical card, quit bitc**n, show them, and go on your way.. AGAIN, not rocket science..... Otherwise depending on quantity, possession is still against the law. Period.. Having only skimmed your diatribe im not really interested in your pro-weed opinions. Its illegal now. The future of legal weed for everyone isn't coming anytime soon.

And where the hell did you get from what little I said that im pro-big company?

I simply meant.. if you have nothing to hide then it shouldn't matter what scan is scanning you.. People who think otherwise are either drama queens or are bored and want something to bitc* about..

They can take a look at my package any time

On a serious note, my package apparently exceed specification and is due for a confiscation...

So instead of black helicopters flying around my house they'll be flashing these things, might look like a disco if the beam is visible.

Toysoldier said,
So instead of black helicopters flying around my house they'll be flashing these things, might look like a disco if the beam is visible.

"the latest wonderfully intrusive project"
"something a bit more positive than playing 'Big Brother'"
"it scans anything unlucky enough"

This article seems to be written from the biased viewpoint of an illegal drug user. Or from a very paranoid writer.