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Is The U.S. Government Planning To Implement Secret Scanners That Can Detect Anything?

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The debate over the government's use of technology that may infringe on privacy is about to be blown out of the water.

Gizmodo has published a report from an anonymous contributor alleging that the government plans on implementing laser-based molecular scanners as soon as 2013. These scanners have the ability to detect even trace amounts of substances.

"From specks of gunpowder to your adrenaline levels to a sugar-sized grain of cannabis to what you had for breakfast," said the report.

The Picosecond Programmable Laser scanners — developed by Genia Photonics and In-Q-Tel — have a reach of 50 meters (164 feet). The machine fires a laser in picoseconds (trillionths of a second), detecting the tiniest traces of substances in an instant, according to the report.

Even more disconcerting is how portable the scanner is. Because it's comprised in a single, robust and alignment-free unit, it may be easily transported for use in many environments — not just airports.

Gizmodo points out that this could mean the government would be able to implement the technology anywhere.

Commenters on The Stranger's post about the report have speculated about the authenticity of the science.

"While the core technology is exciting and probably real, there are likely to be huge engineering hurdles — like cost-effective manufacturing, and processing power — that will take decades to overcome before anything like this goes to market or gets installed in airports," said a commenter by the name of balderdash.

"I'm usually all about privacy from government intrusion, but for some reason this doesn't bother me at all," said a commenter by the name of MR M, "It just seems like a far more efficient way of doing what is already being done with most of the hassle removed."

How do you feel about the prospect of these scanners being implemented in an airport near you? Has the government gone too far?

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