July 08, 2007

Dual Use Technology

FlintThis is a flint nodule from the Chiltern hills. During the Upper Cretaceous a crustacean or mollusk burrowed a hole in ocean sediment. As sediments compacted above silica from sea sponges filled the hole, solidifying into microcrystals that eventually hardened into flint. During the alpine orogeny in the middle Tertiary 50 million years ago the chalk that had resulted from the compressed sediments were lifted up, forming the southern England Chalk Formation. Erosion produced escarpments and freed the flint. And a few days ago I picked up this piece.

As I write this in Sweden the piece is lying in front of me. Despite a patdown in airport security on Heathrow (including the hilarious risk of dropping my pants as my belt was removed) and a swabbing of my suspicious-looking computer for explosives and maybe drugs, nobody prevented me from bringing the flint onto the plane. But flint has obvious terrorist potential. It can be used to strike fire. If thrown hard against the floor it will shatter into sharp shards, which could be affixed shiv-style to plastic cutlery. Or maybe it could knapped into a knife ("what are you doing in the restroom?"). Sure, any such neolithic terrorist would be the laughingstock of the terrorist community, but that is presumably what suicide terrorism is for: leave no witnesses to how embarrassing it is in action.

I'm not arguing that BAA or TSA put rocks onto the banned item lists: there is simply no point. Any list that allows passengers to bring clothing (could be nitrocellulose) and aluminum objects (thermite!) will by necessity be open to destructive dual use.

Posted by Anders3 at July 8, 2007 11:00 AM