With this technology, the molecular-level scanner called a Picosecond Programmable Laser can detect traces of drugs, chemicals, weapons, and food in one-trillionth of a second, or a picosecond.
The lasers will be in use in airports and other high-risk areas within one to two years, according to an unnamed undersecretary from Homeland Security. The company that has acquired 30 patents relating to these particular types of scanners, Genia Photonics, says the Picosecond Programmable Laser scanner can ‘penetrate clothing and many other organic materials and offers spectroscopic information, especially for materials that impact safety such as explosives and pharmacological substances.’
In-Q-Tel, a technology company playing middleman between DHS and Genia Photonics, states that “an important benefit of Genia Photonics’ implementation as compared to existing solutions is that the entire synchronized laser system is comprised in a single, robust and alignment-free unit that may be easily transported for use in many environments… This compact and robust laser has the ability to rapidly sweep wavelengths in any pattern and sequence.” [PDF]
The scanner is capable of detecting substances and processing the data from 164 feet away. It is ten million times faster and one million times more sensitive than any other existing security technology that is available. How widespread could the use of this technology become? Could there eventually be scanners in movie theaters, temples and churches, grocery stores, night clubs, and schools? Will we be scanned without even knowing it? Will our fourth amendment once again be ignored and disregarded?
Because it is such a small device, I can see it being put into police vehicles, as a Huffington Post article from July points out. Could this laser play a part in the legalization of marijuana? One dilemma with legalizing the drug is the hazard of irresponsible people driving under the influence, and the lack of technology to test if a person is high on marijuana at the time of a traffic stop. This new fourth amendment-crushing monstrosity, the Picosecond Programmable Laser, could solve that problem…and probably create three hundred new problems in the process. Current methods of testing for marijuana can show the drug in a person’s system even if the person has not used it in a month. Could this device aid in convincing the government and the public that marijuana should be legalized? What will we be giving up by allowing the use of these scanners? What opportunities for further abuse of power would this technology provide?
Sources: The Secret Government Laser That Instantly Knows Everything About You [Privacy] (gizmodo.com)
- New Homeland Security Laser Scanner Reads People At Molecular Level (washington.cbslocal.com)
- The DHS’s Latest Investment: Terahertz Laser Scanners (hardware.slashdot.org)
- Laser pat-down: Invisible scanners to secretly search people (rt.com)