Another reason to dread the airport

On my last flight, I sat next to a woman who had the worst case of fear of flying I’ve ever seen. She spent the entire trip clutching the armrests and breaking into frequent bouts of tears; when I asked if there was anything I could do, she said, no, she knew it was completely irrational, but she just felt extreme terror every time she got in an airplane.

I wonder if she’d pass this new ridiculous test Homeland Security is installing in airports?

Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST), a US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) programme designed to spot people who are intending to commit a terrorist act, has in the past few months completed its first round of field tests at an undisclosed location in the northeast, Nature has learned.

Like a lie detector, FAST measures a variety of physiological indicators, ranging from heart rate to the steadiness of a person’s gaze, to judge a subject’s state of mind. But there are major differences from the polygraph. FAST relies on non-contact sensors, so it can measure indicators as someone walks through a corridor at an airport, and it does not depend on active questioning of the subject.

Feeling anxious about the job interview you’re flying to? You will be strip-searched. Angry because the incompetent boob at the ticket counter bumped you from your flight? Your body cavities must be inspected. Steely in your resolve, forthright in your determination to strike the infidel? Welcome aboard!

I predict that, like most of the security theater we go through now, there will be huge numbers of false positives to keep TSA busy, and there will be no real terrorists caught. It’s like the tiger repellent rock from the Simpsons…

Only difference is that this rock is going to cost us at least tens of millions of dollars.

I don’t want any more magic gadgets. I’m just hoping for the day that they come to their senses and let us keep our shoes on.