Security theater exemplified in cartoons

Via email from Kevin:




As I said in email to Kevin, “What isn’t said is that you can do the same thing to a room, building or airplane.” I know people who have taken down a house with a few cups of flour.

And how do you think it would work out if TSA were to test for flour, powdered sugar, and non-dairy creamer? Those powdered donuts you had for a quick snack before running to the security line would get you the full blue glove treatment. And as long as they don’t do those tests testing for conventional explosives and searching for knives, guns, and throwing away your shampoo is nothing but security theater.


3 thoughts on “Security theater exemplified in cartoons

  1. How much for a non-flyable DC-9 that is past it’s airworthiness certification, without instruments, engines, tires, pretty much everything except the passenger seats and overhead because those things will make good visual when the flour in the cabin goes kablooey on the 6:00 news?
    This would probably be too expensive for mythbusters to do, and they are unscientific enough that there would be no guarantee they wouldn’t mess it up.

  2. It has perplexed me that those trying to make things go “BOOM” in an illegal way have never quite figured out the power of aerosolized powders.

    The theory is all over the internets, not much research shows flour mills, grain silos, and other places where it has occurred unintentionally, and you could transport the stuff around without raising anyones eyebrows.

    I realize there are some problems with proper air mixes and so on, and I’ve always wondered about the potential in comparison to high explosives.

    Joe, care to elaborate?

  3. @Bill, I haven’t done a lot of testing but here are my only somewhat informed thoughts.

    Dust explosions are “low explosives” as compared to “high explosives” like dynamite, C4, TNT, etc. This means they cannot do things like “cut steel” or even cut pretty much anything. What they can do is generate decent overpressure in an enclosed space. And it doesn’t take a lot of over pressure to do massive damage. Just 1 PSI will generate 144 pounds of force on square foot of a surface. A 4’x8′ sheet of plywood with 1 PSI of over pressure is going to be subject to 32 x 144 (4608) pounds of force. And 1 PSI in an enclosed space is going to be trivial to generate. The force is going to be of short duration but in room, building, airplane or anything that doesn’t vent extremely rapidly there is going to be a lot of structural damage.

    The constraint for “effective deployment” is that you really have to set it off in a large enclosed space. You can’t make pipe bomb with it and mail it to someone. Trying to take down a building from the outside is going to be almost impossible. You might be able to break a few windows but that is about it.

    High explosives will let you attack the exterior of something or take out a vehicle or bridge. Dust explosions on the exterior will only draw attention if someone is looking that way when someone is watching. It probably won’t even make much noise.

    It is a little tricky to get the right mixture of fuel, air, and ignition source but there are surprisingly simple solutions.

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