ucsf vs tsa

November 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm | | news, science and the public, stupid technology

Some profs at UCSF have concerns about the radiation dose of backscatter scanners, specifically that all the energy is deposited in the skin instead of being spread throughout the entire body. So the dose is concentrated in time and volume. Basically, it sounds like TSA hasn’t done enough safety testing on these machines.

I would like to see a risk analysis of the probability of the screening causing cancer vs. the reduced threat of airline passengers dying from terrorism. The problem is that all these are very low probability events.

Anyway, this is my response to the entire fiasco: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRpWnK6Rg3E

(via Austin)


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  1. I read this letter. Is this a place where an uninformed observer (e.g. a synthetic chemist) has no place deciding who’s right or wrong?

    Why haven’t radiation dosimetry-types spoken up?

    Comment by Chemjobber — November 23, 2010 #

  2. here’s a pretty good writeup on the whole fiasco. he does a quick writeup on the statistical details. http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/11/tsa_backscatter.html

    Comment by rafe — November 23, 2010 #

  3. honestly, Schneier seems a little extreme. personally, it’s hard for me to get too upset about the pat-down thing, given bigger problems in the world.

    Comment by sam — November 23, 2010 #

  4. actually, re: Schneier’s comment on the dose compared to a dental xray. the whole point of the UCSF memo is that since the dose is concentrated in the skin, it’s actually several orders of magnitude worse than if you assume it is distributed over the whole body. with the same statistical extrapolation, this makes it far, far more deadly than the terrorists.

    Comment by matt — November 23, 2010 #

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