Friday, April 8, 2011

Airport Blogging: San Antonio

I'm on the way back from a quick trip to Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas. They have an excellent instrumentation and data analysis team, so it was good to talk to them. Being a numerical modeler, it's easy to lose touch with current missions.

This is my third time traveling since the full-body scanners were put in place but the first time that I was instructed to participate. My feelings about the scanners are strongly negative: the radiation dose is poorly quantified and the potential danger ill investigated, but most of all they just don't help. Right now, as Republicans look to slash billions from the budget either on the whims of uneducated constituents or as a way to control current programs they don't agree with, the scanners remain in place. The machines are horribly expensive and couldn't have stopped the attack for which they are a response.

My mild mutiny against the machines is to opt-out every time. On an individual level, it doesn't do much, but I hope that the number of opt-outs grows to the point where it is making a clear statement. To be clear, I do not wish to make the jobs of TSA agents unnecessarily difficult. While there has been a number of reports of poor behavior of agents assigned to do the pat-downs, notably at Albuquerque, I am not trying to make a point to the agents as a whole.

My opt-out to pat-down was quick and uneventful, which was a pleasant relief. There have been many stories of people facing unreasonable delays due to opting out, but this was not the case at ABQ or SAT. The agents were quick, thorough, but quite professional and respectful. The patting down was not (ahem) overly-thorough. Rather anti-climatic, but this is how it should be.

I'll be back in Los Alamos tonight; I'll post more interesting stuff upon my return.

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