The bomb detector that may or may not be hocus pocus

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Let’s move onto something a little more serious for a moment. There’s a device that the New York Times highlighted yesterday called the ADE 651. It’s a small, hand-held explosives detector, or so claims the company behind it, the UK-based ATSC. It’s being heavily used in Iraq, and officials there swear by it. Meanwhile, American officials call the device about as effective and realistic as a Ouija board. It’s rubbish.

Iraqis use the device at the many checkpoints set up around the country. Reason being that it’s less of a hassle to use the device than it is to use, say, a specially trained dog. The device is being questioned in the wake of several bomb attacks in Baghdad: if the device were so effective, then why didn’t it detect those bombs?

An American military commander said, bluntly, “I have no confidence that these would work.” Can’t get any more clear than that.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry bought 800 devices in 2008 for a cool $32 million. So, depending on your point of view, that’s $32 million wisely invested, or $32 million completely burned in an incinerator.

Says the report:

ATSC’s promotional material claims that its device can find guns, ammunition, drugs, truffles, human bodies and even contraband ivory at distances up to a kilometer, underground, through walls, underwater or even from airplanes three miles high. The device works on “electrostatic magnetic ion attraction,” ATSC says.

Sounds like something out of a comic book to me.

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