I just read Stephen Hawking's latest book, The Grand Design. I really enjoyed it. It re-ignited the wonder of nature that drove me to major in physics in undergrad. There are some really mind-bending things in there: 10^500 possible universes, 11 dimensions with 7 of them rolled up, actions of the present affecting particles in the past.
From that, I dug around in Netflix and watched the Nova show called Welcome to Mars. The continuing story of the Mars rovers is amazing. I remember when they first landed. Lots of press, amazing pictures. And then even though the rovers continued to function, the press lost interest. But they're still going over six years later. That's crazy considering the plan was for only 3 months.
But to me, even more amazing is the Cosmos series by Carl Sagan. 30 years later and it's still spot on. Yes, it's a product of it's time with the anti-nuclear sentiment. But the science remains solid. He even predicts global warming from greenhouse gases. It's well worth watching.
One thing that struck me most about the Giffords shooting was how the people around immediately stepped up to help out. CNN has a good article covering this angle:
A man who'd been grazed with a bullet helped subdue a gunman. An intern tended to the wounded congresswoman whose staff he'd joined just days before. A woman put an extra ammunition clip out of the gunman's reach, and a doctor who'd witnessed the shooting performed CPR on the injured.
I think this is part of a trend that started with the 4th plane on 9/11. People now know that they need to help out in crisis situations like this. And as we see from the most recent event, it works. The damage could have been a lot worse had these bystanders not intervened. And but for the efforts of Daniel Hernandez, Representative Giffords would likely now be dead.
I think now is the time for the government and the media to sieze on this meme and reinforce it. We want to do everything we can encourage people to help out in these situations. Realistically we can never eliminate the crazies from doing these sorts of things from time to time. But with the help of those who happen to be there, we can mitigate their impact.
The main line split into two baggage machines. The one on the left had a standard metal detector. The one on the right had a backscatter machine (BSM). I opted for the left line of course.
Then when I was nearly through, they closed off the metal detector and started routing both lines though the BSM. This caused a huge back-up. After my carry-ons entered the baggage X-ray, I told the closest guard I was opting out of BSM. I got to skip the line, and the guy who did it was very friendly and communicative. It wasn't all that invasive, I thought. I'd certainly do it again. And the strange thing was I never even had to go through the metal detector. Was that just an oversight, or is it standard operating procedure?
Even more strange was when I flew out of PIT this morning, some Army reservists were let through without having to take off their combat boots.
In line behind me was a guy with a cast on his arm. I wonder what standard operating procedure for that is. After all, it can't be removed, and he can also opt out of BSM. Couldn't one easily put some contraband into a fake cast, like a ceramic blade? Or even make the entire cast out of PETN covered with a superficial layer of plaster?
Security theater is certainly interesting. The show is slightly different every time I go.
Here's a decent website documenting which airports are using BSMs, and also lists tips for avoiding the machines at some airports.