The Ultimate Backscatter X-ray Scanner Quiz

Staff

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About This Quiz

Backscatter X-ray scanners are being deployed at airports to help security personnel thwart terrorist attacks. How much do you know about the technology behind these sophisticated machines?

Backscatter scanners cost around how much?

At around $150,000 per unit, these scanners are expensive enough that you may wonder if the government is scanning your wallet, hoping to squeeze out more tax dollars to buy more security devices.

When you submit to a backscatter scan, what are you being exposed to?

Don't forget your Geiger counter! The scanners emit weak electromagnetic radiation that the government says is most assuredly, positively, probably safe.

To receive the same amount of radiation equal to one chest X-ray, you'd have to go through a backscatter scanner about how many times?

If you're flying this much, maybe it would be more economical to sprout wings?

When are you subjected to significantly more ionizing radiation than you'd receive during a single backscatter scan?

As planes ascend, passengers receive radiation exposure that's potentially hundreds of times higher than a scan.

Partly due to concerns about radiation exposure, the TSA is testing another type of scanner. What kind of technology does it use?

You won't find it on the FM dial, but millimeter wave technology uses radio signals to create images similar to those from backscatter scanners.

Backscatter scanners create images that make people look nude. What is the TSA doing to allay privacy concerns?

With updated software, backscatter scanners display less risque images.

Backscatter scanners emit X-rays, a type of electromagnetic radiation, which is made up of what?

Photons are emitted at a low level that's presumed to be safe for human exposure.

Some scientists say the most likely health risk from backscatter X-rays is what?

Some researchers believe there's a remote chance that these scanners focus too much radiation on our sensitive skin.

If you don't want to submit to a backscatter scan, what can you opt for instead?

Feeling frisky? Skip the scanner and ask security to pat you down instead. You may not enjoy the physical contact, but you'll avoid the scanner.

Backscatter technology is extremely effective, in part because it detects certain objects that metal detectors do not. Such as?

Terrorists are a devious bunch. One of the big benefits of backscatter scanners is their ability to pick up on objects that other scanners can't see.

Backscatter scanners aren't just used in airports. You'll also find the scanners in what other location?

Now you don't have to fly to get in your backscattering fun! The Feds can deploy mobile versions of these scanners and drive around, scanning the populace to their heart's content.

The lower powered rays from backscatter scanners barely penetrate the skin. What does this mean in terms of security?

We're not talking about the kind of cavities your dentist treats. A truly dedicated terrorist could potentially hide weapons in body cavities to trick security.

The TSA spent about how much money to develop updated software that displays less revealing images of passengers?

The TSA spent millions to make sure the scanners show less detail. Some critics say the new software might make self-conscious travelers feel better at the expense of less effective security.

After they're reviewed, what happens to the images from a backscatter scanner?

Hopefully, they won't show up on Facebook! The machines can be configured to save images to a hard drive, but the TSA says airport scanners are programmed to discard images immediately.

Who filed a lawsuit against the TSA, claiming that the agency was secretly storing body scanner images?

EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) filed the suit, alleging that the TSA was misleading the public about what happens to the pictures.

Which government agency determines a safe level of radiation exposure from equipment such as body scanners?

Want some Prozac and spinach with your X-rays? The same agency that monitors food and pharmaceutical safety also plays a role in determining radiation exposure levels.

To avoid a pat-down and breeze through the backscatter screening, what should you do?

Now's not the time for modesty. Remove your shoes, belt and all of your personal accessories. Otherwise, you may need to undergo a closer inspection.

If you are selected for backscatter screening, what will you be asked to do?

Strike a pose, Madonna style. Or don't. Either way, you'll have to stand still while screeners analyze your image.

In case of malfunction, X-ray scanners could subject passengers to a radiation overdose. What would this cause?

Nobody really knows for sure, as every human's DNA reacts a little differently to radiation exposure. Fortunately, the TSA says each machine has redundant mechanisms designed to prevent overexposure.

Backscatter X-ray images are more detailed than traditional X-rays. Why?

Although the backscatter beam is a relative weakling compared to regular X-rays, the scattering effect of the X-rays produces a clearer final image.

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