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Nuclear Scanning Catches a Radioactive Cat On I-5

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the paging-dr.-schrodinger-line-4-please dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 594

Jeff recommends Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat's story from a community meeting with Northwest border control agents. Seems their monitoring for dirty bombs from the median of Interstate 5 caught a car transporting a radioactive cat. "It turns out the feds have been monitoring Interstate 5 for nuclear 'dirty bombs.' They do it with radiation detectors so sensitive it led to the following incident. 'Vehicle goes by at 70 miles per hour... Agent is in the median, a good 80 feet away from the traffic. Signal went off and identified an isotope [in the passing car]. The agent raced after the car, pulling it over not far from the monitoring spot.' Did he find a nuke? 'Turned out to be a cat with cancer that had undergone a radiological treatment three days earlier.'"

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I know the name of its owner.... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22842860)

Schrodinger

Poor thing... (5, Funny)

Katatsumuri (1137173) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842884)

I heard it hated to be observed.

Re:I know the name of its owner.... (2)

Kanaka Kid (829457) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842916)

What was the cat's state?

Re:I know the name of its owner.... (5, Funny)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842990)

What was the cat's state?

Washington--which is a quantum superposition between Oregon and Canada.

Re:I know the name of its owner.... (4, Funny)

piemcfly (1232770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843084)

catatonic?

Re:I know the name of its owner.... (5, Funny)

piemcfly (1232770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843100)

wait, that was supposed to say

'catatomic'

... and he ruins his own joke as usual.

In Soviet Russia... (3, Funny)

mindwhip (894744) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843088)

In Soviet Russia... Radioactive Cat scans you!

Lolcat (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22842862)

Schrödinger cat is not amused

Re:Lolcat (5, Funny)

tubapro12 (896596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843028)

Schrödinger's cat is not amused—maybe.
There, I fixed that for you.

Ha, ha (5, Interesting)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842866)

Now, how do you explain that you've just had radiation treatment to the mindless TSA buffoon who's found you're radioactive?

Re:Ha, ha (1)

Rungi (1098221) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842888)

You don't. Now bend over, I'll make this as painless as possible.

Re:Ha, ha (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843238)

Why should I explain the details of my cancer treatment to some TSA agent? My medical history is private and should be protected by law from unnecessary disclosure.

Re:Ha, ha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843326)

That's a tough one. I'd ggo for 'Me, ow meow. Meo wmeo, meo w. Meow!'

asking for a tag (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22842874)

Please, please, please, somebody tag this catscan.

cool. (4, Funny)

RelliK (4466) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842886)

Did the cat have any superpowers?

Re:cool. (5, Funny)

jx100 (453615) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842980)

Its purr could attract law enforcement officials.

Re:cool. (2, Funny)

kevingolding2001 (590321) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843280)

And Eric, being such a happy cat, was a piece of cake.

Re:cool. (5, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843102)

I'M DA BOMB! LAWL!!

KTHXBAI

Re:cool. (5, Funny)

Eponymous Crowbar (974055) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843214)

We seem to be missing the real news here -- this has to be the first cat that can drive a car on the interstate, right?

Proper investigation (1, Interesting)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842890)

I assume they promptly cut the cat open - it could, after all, have been transporting fissile material in it's body. You never know with those feline terrorists.

Re:Proper investigation (5, Funny)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842982)

You never know with those feline terrorists.

Perhaps it was a persian cat? You can never be too careful with those Al-Qaeda supporters [mwcnews.net]

blow up the cat? Dirty cat bomb? (1)

spineboy (22918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843038)

maybe the terrorist hates cats too and is using the "cancer" as a decoy. Now he can kill 2 birds with one stone. Dirty cat bomb.

Re:Proper investigation (5, Funny)

asliarun (636603) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843004)

I assume they promptly cut the cat open
...and it would have been quite safe as well. After all, the cat had 18 half-lives.

Re:Proper investigation (1)

mqduck (232646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843270)

...and it would have been quite safe as well. After all, the cat had 18 half-lives
I hate you. I (*snicker*) hate you. Hate. (*snicker*)

Nothing really new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843106)

Nothing really new here. State troopers in west Texas have been doing this for years. In the oilfield, use of neutron sources for bond logs and other useful isotopes like iodine 131 are used for doing injection well analysis, and hey, lots of oil wells in the area.

More than once I have heard the story of survey truck headed down the highway, not properly carrying placards, cop pulling them over because their Gieger counter went off. Not sure it would pick up a radioactive cat, but the sources involved with my story were only a few millicurie and inside a lead containment vessel, so...

Goatse (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22842892)

Goatse. [twofo.co.uk] [goatse.ch]

You nerds love it.

In other news, Zeus still sucks cock.

LOL @ Privacy Tag (4, Insightful)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842898)

Emitting nuclear radiation is the equivilent of shouting "hey, here, look in my vehicle. I've got something NUCLEAR!" No wonder there's no privacy. I'm sure if the vehicle was glowing no one would feel bad about them being pulled over. This just happens to glow in a very different way.

Re:LOL @ Privacy Tag (5, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843020)

True, but since there are legitimate reasons for emitting radiation they should take that into account. The last thing people (or cats) undergoing radiation therapy for cancer need is to be stopped and searched on every corner

Re:LOL @ Privacy Tag (4, Insightful)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843314)

So then, why haven't a human been caught in this net before? It seems there should be more radioactive people than cats being driven around.


Also, the story has a slight smell of urban legend. Snopes hasn't picked it up yet, though.

Re:LOL @ Privacy Tag (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843324)

Perhaps a "radioactive cat on board" sign in the rear window would help.

Rad. therapy (1)

Dr. Cody (554864) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843320)

Perhaps the title should have been "Nuclear Scanning Catches Cat On I-131"...

Iodine-131 is a stupidly popular isotope if there ever was one, and my money is on this being the culprit. It's used for targeting the thyroid, as it's very aggressively absorbed by it.

I'm seeing a few posts pondering how much money they must be shelling out for these detectors at the borders and on highways. The thing is, it's really not that exotic or even expensive. Firstly, the characteristic lines [from the radiation of these radioisotopes] on the multi-channel analyzers I've used are quite clear and definitive, and even a large number of possible isotopes can usually be narrowed down by hand in a few minutes. Authorities looking for a dirty bomb would probably be looking at a quite limited number of possible radioisotopes, meaning fewer signatures to search for.

One of these happens to be iodine-131, not only because it's so readily and stubbornly absorbed by the body, but also because it's produced in relatively large quantities in the spent fuel of nuclear reactors and isolated for medical use.

It's all fun and games... (4, Insightful)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842900)

...until some law-abiding citizen going about his lawful business gets stopped and accosted for no reason beyond "the machine said so" during a routine blanket surveillance sweep. Enjoy the slide into a police state.

Re:It's all fun and games... (1)

black_lbi (1107229) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842950)

Sounds more like a slide into paranoia to me ...

Re:It's all fun and games... (5, Funny)

dlanod (979538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843076)

I can see the interrogation now...


FBI goon: "What's the matter??? CAT GOT YOUR TONGUE?"

Re:It's all fun and games... (5, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843120)

To make things worse a dirty bomb detector is a bit like having an Easter Bunny detector. It may create employment and the impression that something is being done to detect the kiddies but it's worth considering what phyicists think of the idea instead of various poorly educated coke-addled political advisors.

Re:It's all fun and games... (2, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843176)

Can't say I'm a physicist but I think it is bullshit. Cleaning up the mess of any conceivable "dirty bomb" is a mop and bucket affair. There's no possible pay to render a city uninhabitable or anything like that.. shit, a full-on nuclear weapon exploded at altitude didn't render Hiroshima uninhabitable. It's just a retarded idea.

Re:It's all fun and games... (3, Interesting)

G-funk (22712) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843244)

I'm afraid you're not maintaining the correct level of obed^H^H^H^H fear, citizen. Please come with me.

Re:It's all fun and games... (4, Interesting)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843284)

If someone ever sets off a radiological bomb, the first thing I'm doing is taking out a loan to buy the land where it happens, because the value over the following decade is going to be tremendous. I'll even pay to throw in radiation detectors just to put people at ease.

There are reasons to do some scanning for nuclear material, but if a few stray particles from a medical procedure is going to be enough to stop someone, there needs to be some decisions made on the sensitivity of the scanner.

Re:It's all fun and games... (4, Insightful)

Rocketship Underpant (804162) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843144)

It occurs to me that if someone actually wanted to transport a dirty bomb across the US, all they have to do is have a car a few miles ahead containing a radioactive cat, and they'll know for certain if and where there are radiation checkpoints.

Re:It's all fun and games... (4, Insightful)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843204)

Or, if they cared about their sexual organs, they would use lead which would render the fancy detectors useless if done properly.

Re:It's all fun and games... (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843322)

Well, then they know for sure that radioactive cats are terrorists.


All radioactive cats => GTMO!

Radioactive cats... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22842902)

have 18 half-lives.
(captcha: murders)

doesn't add up (1)

SpeedyG5 (762403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842906)

I cannot believe this hasn't reared its head then. I would think with all the folks being radiated on for cancer treatment, or do cats get a greater dose as a result of their massive size? It just doesn't add up.

Re:doesn't add up (5, Informative)

masonc (125950) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842952)

Actually I believe there have been lots of similar events. A friend of mine is a member of some service organization and was on a club outing to nearby Canada by coach. On the border crossing back to America, they were stopped at the crossing when the border guards told the driver to shut the coach down and they boarded it. The club members were apprehensive as they had been replenishing the club alcohol stash and had a bit more than the legal duty free limits in the storage areas.
The guards finally identified one older gentleman and questioned him, only to find out he had been a radiation trace injection four weeks previously. They were cleared and went on their way.
If they have this equipment at all the major crossings and on the interstates, imagine the cost and the amount of money that has been spent on these type of projects.

Re:doesn't add up (1)

tommeke100 (755660) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843272)

Indeed. There has been a story in the news a year or two ago about the Detroit Marathon. The marathon crosses the border in Canada, and somewhere in the pack of runners that end in a little over 3 hours (which is still a great time for serious recreational runners) the nuclear detector went off in the border tunnel, and they had to stop a whole bunch of runners and delayed them for minutes. Marathon runners usually don't wear much more then a singlet and some compression shorts, so it's not like you can hide a nuclear device in there. Also, for marathons like the Boston and New York marathon, you have to qualify under a certain time in a previous marathon to be sure to participate (3 hrs 10 min for males in Boston, 2 hrs 50 for males in NY), qualifying time vary with age grade and sex.

Re:doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22842962)

I have heard from a friend on the local FD that their detectors have gone off on humans (on foot, not driving by in a car) that have had radiation treatments on several occasions. Guess the guy in the median had a better detector.

Re:doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22842966)

Just a planted article to make the public believe that the equipment works at all... Feel a bit safer, you know?

Re:doesn't add up (4, Informative)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843092)

It has, just hasn't been widely reported. According to this article, there are about 600 radiation scanners deployed around the country and the rate of false positives is so high that the guy in charge of the Homeland Security Dept. nuclear office says they are pretty useless in practice:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,257004,00.html?sPage=fnc/specialsections/homelandsecurity [foxnews.com]

Re:doesn't add up (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843298)

OMG! It's a link to FoxNews.com! It must be a lie!

But wait -- it says something Slashdotters want to hear! It must be true!

But it's a lie!

Truth!

Lie!

Truth!

Whatever will the poor Slashdotters do?!

Re:doesn't add up (2, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843098)

There's a huge difference between being irradiated from an external source and ingesting or being injected with radioisotopes as a diagnostic or treatment procedure.

i say, it is effective, an useful (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842908)

I think it isn't much of a privacy problem to detect radioactivity in the wild.
When people do this on their own with their own crappy tools and the authorities wanted to regulate that, everyone was saying 'uh oh'.
Now, when it turns out the authorities do it with state of art machinery, everyone goes 'uh oh' again.
Hey, when Joe the Concerned Neighbour did it to you, he didn't tell you either!

Re:i say, it is effective, an useful (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843118)

You mean, Joe The Concerned Neighbour who managed to rig up a supersensitive ionic induction Geiger counter in his spare time between getting home from work and chugging beers? Yea, I hate that type.

Look, an Isotope! (4, Funny)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842918)

Signal went off and identified an isotope

Holy smokes! Isotopes [thefreedictionary.com] everywhere!

I'm surprised they needed a detector to find something that, by definition, comprises all of matter.

Radioactive Cat (1, Redundant)

sihker (913320) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842926)

Obligatory fortune quote: A radioactive cat has 18 half-lives :P

So let's say... (5, Interesting)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842936)

1. I'm remodeling my house. I go down to Home Despot/Slowes and buy a dozen smoke detectors. Would I get pulled over for being a suspected terrorist?

2. I'm a cancer patient undergoing radiation therapy. What can be done to prevent the horror of being pulled over by the KGB? Would it be reasonable to issue "radiology patient" tags, like they issue handicapped tags for the handicapped?

3. What is the false positive rate of such monitoring? Here, we have a cute example of a sick cat setting off a false positive. What about other incidents like this that fail to get into the newspaper?

Grump

Re:So let's say... (3, Insightful)

tirerim (1108567) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843060)

If you're worrying about the KGB, you should be more worried about them making you radioactive [wikipedia.org] than investigating you for already being radioactive.

Re:So let's say... (2, Insightful)

piojo (995934) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843072)

1. I'm remodeling my house. I go down to Home Despot/Slowes and buy a dozen smoke detectors. Would I get pulled over for being a suspected terrorist?
Whether they would search you without permission would be a more interesting question. I think the police are well within their rights to pull you over and ask why you're emitting radiation. After all, the constitution doesn't prevent us from being stopped and asked questions.

2. I'm a cancer patient undergoing radiation therapy. What can be done to prevent the horror of being pulled over by the KGB? Would it be reasonable to issue "radiology patient" tags, like they issue handicapped tags for the handicapped?

3. What is the false positive rate of such monitoring? Here, we have a cute example of a sick cat setting off a false positive. What about other incidents like this that fail to get into the newspaper?
I'm not sure this matters. Are people's rights being trampled as a result of this monitoring? I'd feel more strongly about this story if there was mention of someone getting arrested, hassled, held, etc. On the other hand, if they detect cancer patients, they must pull people over pretty frequently, and the program may never catch a terrorist... well, good thing I'm not in politics.

Re:So let's say... (5, Insightful)

David Jao (2759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843168)

3. What is the false positive rate of such monitoring? Here, we have a cute example of a sick cat setting off a false positive. What about other incidents like this that fail to get into the newspaper?
I'm not sure this matters. Are people's rights being trampled as a result of this monitoring? I'd feel more strongly about this story if there was mention of someone getting arrested, hassled, held, etc. On the other hand, if they detect cancer patients, they must pull people over pretty frequently, and the program may never catch a terrorist... well, good thing I'm not in politics.

The false positive rate does matter, regardless of whether or not rights are being trampled. When you conduct any sort of large scale surveillance activity, the base rate fallacy [wikipedia.org] implies that most of the triggering events will be false positives. With too many false positives, your surveillance program is worse than useless -- it wastes money that could otherwise be better used on other security initiatives.

I know there is some emotional appeal in arguing that "if it saves even one life, etc. etc. then it's worth any amount of money" but in the real world that's just not true. In the real world, spending one billion dollars to save a life might be a bad idea if spending that same money on some other program would save two lives. In comparing the relative merits of two or more different security proposals, the false positive rate is one important factor to consider, because it affects the cost/benefit analysis.

Of course, people's rights matter as well, because that also affects the cost/benefit analysis. Unfortunately, the American public is seemingly too dumb to perform any sort of analysis involving more than one variable. Since the false positive rate involves math, it doesn't have any political appeal at all. Hence the Republicans fixate only on the terrorists, and the Democrats when not fixating on the terrorists focus only on civil liberties to the exclusion of all else.

Let's say, then: (5, Interesting)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843078)

1) Depends on the design of the detector. There's no chance the alpha particles from the Am-241 will be detected, as the cardboard box the smoke alarms are in will stop those, but the photons might be. The cat's scan residue (rimshot, please, along with everyone else in this discussion--but I would guess it's Tc-99 residue from a Tc-99m scan) was picked up by this detector system, so assumedly the Am-241 gammas might as well. That said, I don't know what activity is usually used smoke detectors (and I'm too lazy to look it up), or what activity is usually administered to cats during vet. nuclear med. procedures; questions like these are ones of quantity. You might well be stopped. From their perspective, you might well be buying twelve Am-241 sources to line the casing of a bomb.

2) I was under the impression that oncologists were in the habit of doing just that--giving "doctor's notes" to patients with outpatient implanted brachytherapy seeds or devices. Being treated with a linear accelerator would not be likely to leave a perceptible amount of radiation in your body (photoneutrons from high energy linacs might cause some activation, but I don't think that it's generally a serious concern as far as setting off radiation alarms). Would it also bother you that you might well set off radiation alarms at nuclear power plants, if you happened to work at one, while being treated for your cancer?

3) From a machine perspective, this was not a false positive. From a judicial/social standpoint, it was. I don't have much more to add beyond that.

Re:So let's say... (1)

tokul (682258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843124)

What can be done to prevent the horror of being pulled over by the KGB?
Avoid therapy that involves changes in time continuum. Soviet KGB was dissolved in 1991 and this cat was caught in US. KGB is not part of USA law enforcement yet.

Re:So let's say... (2, Funny)

glwtta (532858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843186)

All I'm getting from you is a lot of Freedom hating. Why do you want the terrorists to win?

Re:So let's say... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843188)

3. What is the false positive rate of such monitoring?

Considering the distinct lack of nuclear attacks in the past few decades, about 100%.

Re:So let's say... (1, Flamebait)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843258)

Sigh. So what is supposed to be done then? I'm sure with all the bitching on /. about this incident that there must be a rock solid solution that has no false positives.

I know I'm going to be modded 'FB' for this, but there are always 'false positives' in everything. Nothing is 100% accurate. There are and will be innocent folks caught in the fray. Obviously the goal is to minimize the false positives, however, there are going to be a few. Hopefully fewer as time goes by.

The sad part is should a 'dirty bomb' or otherwise go off in the States, I'm sure there will be plenty of folks on /. and elsewhere who will be first in line to bitch about why the Govt wasn't doing their job. Pick a side and stay on it. Either you want their best effort for detection and intelligence or you don't want any.

 

Already invented? (3, Funny)

Circlotron (764156) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842946)

You mean they didn't just invent the cat scanner?

Re:Already invented? (1)

biobogonics (513416) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843018)

You mean they didn't just invent the cat scanner?

No, just the false positive cat scan.

nothing wrong with this (3, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842948)

Passivly monitoring traffic for this kind of thing is harmless, and i'm sure no one would mind as long as the agent used a little common sense and didn't immediately assume the person in the car was osama.

Re:nothing wrong with this (1)

definate (876684) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843050)

Although I am a staunch privacy advocate, I am with you on this one. However, the device should be recalibrated with time so as to not trigger on false positives, and the device should be reviewed for service after a period, to see whether it is really necessary for funding to be put into these.

I like passive monitoring... within reason.

As you outlined, the primary concern here is the tact with which the officer dealt with the situation. If he went straight for the gun and assumed it was Osama and friends, then this is ridiculous and he should lose his job, then procedures and training should be revised.

Busy preparing for the last war (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843166)

Passivly monitoring traffic for this kind of thing is harmless

Pointless busy work costs taxpayer money. If a dirty bomb is ever detonated it will be very easy to clean up (you can find the bits with geiger counters) and isn't likely to inspire a lot of terror unless there was far more active material inside than you would need for a real bomb. A dirty bomb is interesting speculation that leading nuclear physicists couldn't work out how to build to be an effective weapon - then it transformed into a handy little Red under the bed for political stunts. There are far more interesting bits of science fiction to worry about and real threats as well. A bomb that actually kills people would inspire far more terror when it goes off than one that gives increased cancer risks to a small number of people.

That's an excellent coffee table story (4, Interesting)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842958)

Of course, it's not serious journalism to simply quote from a random funny story tossed out in an otherwise dull talk. Good speakers often have a collection of slightly oddball fake stories to put the audience at ease. Journalism means actually chasing up the story, interviewing the supposed cat's owner and the agent. If they actually exist, that is.

mandatory comments... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843114)

1. Are you calling the OP a copycat?
2. You must be mew here. Your caterwauling will get you nowhere; here at slashdot, you must live under the cat's foot.
3. Don't be such a sourpuss.

Re:mandatory comments... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843274)

Never have mod points when I need 'em...

Not that uncommon (1)

twistah (194990) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842976)

I have not heard of border agents doing this before, and it's interesting how sensitive this tech is, but this isn't as uncommon as you'd think. I know of a small village that is getting federal funding to install such sensors along a main road, which eventually leads to an airport.

Hardly dangerous (1)

brejc8 (223089) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842984)

Considering that they are looking for dirty bombs which are of little to no threat, they did very well to catch a potentially dangerous radioactive feline. Someone could have received a very nasty scratch.
Wikipedia on the dirty bomb [wikipedia.org] : At levels created from most probable sources, not enough radiation would be present to cause severe illness or death. A test explosion and subsequent calculations done by the United States Department of Energy found that assuming nothing is done to clean up the affected area and everyone stays in the affected area for one year, the radiation exposure would be "fairly high", but not fatal.[1] Recent analysis of the Chernobyl accident fallout confirms this, showing that the effect on many people in the surrounding area, although not those in close proximity, was almost negligible.

Fairly dangerous for one reason (4, Insightful)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843116)

The fear of a dirty bomb is not that people will die--not many would probably die from the blast, or the radiation. Dirty bombs are nothing more than panic weapons. The public is, by and large, so terrified of anything "nuclear" that a large radiation dispersal device going off in a crowded area would cause literal waves of _redoubled_ panic as soon as someone realized and communicated that the bomb had radioactive isotopes inside it. Justifiably or not, it would then be a blind panic--these people would be running from something they can't see or smell, and probably don't understand in the slightest. Now, being informed about radiation won't keep it from bringing you harm if you happen to be exposed to it, probably wouldn't be much comfort if a radioactive bomb exploded across the street, and won't give you instantaneous wind-direction and plume information; it might help to allay the fears of those who're outside the blast zone, and might help ease the process of relocating back into the contaminated region.

Sure, they're not weapons that'll kill millions of people at a stroke, but isn't one of the common themes of life that the most striking, obvious, and dramatic dangers aren't always the ones that should merit the most respect and attention?

Re:Hardly dangerous (4, Interesting)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843242)

I strongly disagree. The Chernobyl explosion and resulting contamination was not designed to disperse radioactive material. It did a fairly good job of doing that *anyway*. I agree that the predicted effects are fortunately much less (20 years later) than previously predicted, but it was nonetheless extremely effective at effecting FEAR and Terror into that portion of the World. If Terrorists with high explosives expertise also had access to MORE deadly radioactive substances than Chernobyl contained, that would be VERY SCARY.

Terrorists are likely more interested the FEAR and the sensationalized terrifying concept of "Nuclear Fallout" rather than the actual scientific effects of such a dirty radiological High Explosive dispersion device (AKA Dirty Bomb).
Terrorists may actually target key water and food supplies or river systems with radiological explosive dispersion devices.

Any primary "Dirty Bomb" Victims that inhale, eat, drink, or consume into their bodies ANY energetically decaying radioisotopes (especially ones with relatively short half-lives) will have an *almost certain chance* of developing lung and/or bone cancers.
Plutonium-238, curium-244, strontium-90, polonium-210, promethium-147, cesium-137, cerium-144, ruthenium-106, cobalt-60, curium-242, and thulium isotopes all can produce oncogenic, teratogenic, and mutagenic effects on the human body (especially if ingested or inhaled). This happens if the initial exposure does not kill the primary victims.

In any case, it is very very unlikely that a citizen jury of peers would consider the passive monitoring of specific "hot" radioisotopes by US authorities to be a violation of the 4th Amendment's "unreasonable searches and seizures".
NOBODY should have any of the above in their possession unless they are professionals and they would have clearly marked DOT placards on their commercial vehicles as well as DOT, NRC (and probably DOE) approved possession and transportation paperwork and approved containment vessels. http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref/teachers/11.pdf [nrc.gov]
Also, they would have to follow controlled HC (Hazardous Cargo) approved routes within the US highway system. http://orise.orau.gov/reacts/guide/hazard.htm [orau.gov]

I agree that it is interesting some animal and human cancer patients (and other radiologically medicated persons) have been flagged "hot" by roadside sensors and detained by authorities. It is likely that those same sensors can determine the quantity and difference between the americium-241 (one gram is enough for 5000 smoke detectors) from the other more dangerous materials no civilian should never have. http://www.uic.com.au/nip35.htm [uic.com.au]

I am a US citizen, and I DO feel better knowing that these things ARE being actively screened for by our government. It would be terribly irresponsible for our government to NOT look for radioactive substances if technology would allow it to conducted as unobtrusively as it is from the side of a PUBLIC highway or port of entry. Americans don't have a right to own dangerous radioactive components.

OTOH, if they decide to screen for GUNS in the US... that's a Second Amendment right we DO have... and whole other issue.

No Human in the car? (4, Funny)

tekrat (242117) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842994)

The summary says the car was populated by a "cat", but doesn't mention if there was a human driver. Either that, or the car was driven by a 60's beatnik with a fondness for Jazz music. "Hey dude, I just pulled over this radiocative cat, man, I mean he was smokin'."
Cosmic.

A Cat. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843000)

I agree with the agent on this one myself, if it was my job I would have done the same. You guys would rather live in a private state, I would rather live in a safe one.

If a car drove passed and showed up as carrying radioactive material the last thing I would of expected it to be is a cat!

Hunting a Bogey Man is a game of Cat and Mouse (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843022)

We should all start carrying around smoke detectors to drive these people nuts :)

2 can play games.

At least it works! (1)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843030)

Safer than sorry, right? Credit to 'em for being able to detect even that.

Meow (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843056)

I, for one, welcome our radioactive terrorist cat overlords.

{puts out a saucer of milk}

Radioactive Steel Rebar (4, Interesting)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843070)

I remember reading something about them discovering a truck loaded with contaminated steel at the gate of some federal facility. Sometimes radiation sources, like cobalt-60, get mixed in with scrap metal that is going to be recycled. The steel plants are scared to death that they will accidentally melt down a load of scrap that contains a radiation source, resulting in a lot of spoiled steel and a huge decontamination bill. They have their own radiation detectors to check incoming material.

For related information: (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843140)

For those of you who might be interested in reading about these types of incidents--I'm fascinated by them myself--you should try the IAEA's reports. They've produced briefs on accidents such as these, including some irradiator incidents, some industrial radiography incidents, and some incidents of sources being sold as/in scrap metal.

The thing that worries me is... (4, Funny)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843086)

... just how radioactive was this cat? If it's sufficiently radioactive to show up at quite a distance in a moving vehicle, how much full-body radiation are the people around the cat getting?

I do not want a hot cat sitting in my lap.

Re:The thing that worries me is... (5, Funny)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843132)

I do not want a hot cat sitting in my lap.

Obviously a slashdotting geek to the very core. I'll take a hot pussy on my lap any day of the week.

psy ops, paranoia and BS (1)

dotmax (642602) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843150)

Here's several serially-related thoughts ...

Regardless of the truth of this story it has the effect of making life more difficult for any would-be dirty bomb makers, forcing them to work very much harder to hide their isotope decay signals.

Of course, by the same token, this kind of story makes it more likely that dirty bomb makers will tend to be that much harder to find in the future.

As far as the privacy and homeland security jackbooted gomer issues go: bullshit. It's wholly appropriate and frankly expected that we do this kind of monitoring. Whinging about this seems a little contrived. Radiological hazards are the only hazard that comes to mind, that we can wholly passively and remotely detect. As the article points out, we can even characterize indvidual isotopes. A modern friggin technological miracle and people are complaining. What. Ever.

Now then. Characterizing isotopes (claimed in the article) tends to let us rule out non-bomb materials, since theraputic radiochemicals tend to decay within a couple of days and are hence not really suitable for dirty bombs.

WHICH leads me to believe the original cited story is bullshit, since the officer would have known he was looking at medical radiation.

Great story, though.

Where does one get a radioactive cat? (1)

itsybitsy (149808) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843170)

What are the uses of radioactive cats? Hmmm... gaming the system of course....

Strictly speaking as a security paranoid individual here.. one could have many decoy cars with radioactive cats lead the real vehicle that contains, er, well that contains something else, namely, that which won't be named here.

Too many false positives will likely dampen their responses. The watchers, not the cats.

It's now the watchers that need watching. ALL government people, who ever they are and whatever role they play in ANY level or BRANCH of government MUST BE VIDEO and AUDIO recorded for their actions to be valid government actions. In addition these videos and audios must be published in REALTIME to the PUBLIC and replicated to government watch dog web sites set up by any interested party (such as the ALCU or GreenPeace or _fill_in_the_blank_). This provides a proper and valid check on the people who are acting on behalf of the abstract notion of government. Remember real people are pretending that they are the government; they must be watched for corruption and overstepping their bounds. By video recording everything they do they will constrain their actions.

Remember the US Constitution was simply a written piece of paper signed by a tiny group of people. The US Government is a myth created by a declaration. It starts with "WE THE PEOPLE" - THUS WE THE PEOPLE can easily override CONGRESS and the PRESIDENT by a NATIONAL REFERENDUM LEAD BY THE PEOPLE WITHOUT ANY ASSISTANCE FROM ANY BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT! That's right, a people's referendum taken up and get out there getting signatures to override your governments at ALL LEVELS.

The same goes for most other counties in the world.

IF the leaders want a surveillance state, let's put them and all their underlings and supporters and funders and power brokers etc... under 24x366 surveillance for the entire public to see! Unedited of course! N million C-SPAN channels... For every camera they put on us, have ten cameras put on them!

Detectors at the border? (1)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843172)

When I drove back through US customs from Vancouver on New Year's Day, there were some kind of electrical gadgets just before the inspector's booth. They were square boxes, about five inches square and an inch or so thick, several of them pointed at each car lane, with thick cables coming off of them.

I don't know what they were, but speculated that they were radiation detectors.

There are detectors buried in the road near the Los Alamos National Laboratory. A while back I read about a case where a hospital radiation source accidentally got made into rebar, which was loaded onto a truck bound for the US. The driver had a friend who worked at Los Alamos, so he drove up there to visit, setting off all the detectors which were meant to detect the transport of radioactive material away from LANL.p

Does anyone else find it odd that... (1)

falken0905 (624713) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843174)

A cat with cancer was receiving radiation therapy? Don't get me wrong, I love cats and animals in general, but who pays possibly thousands of dollars for cat radiation therapy? Sad to consider that there are probably thousands of -people- in the US needing such treatment who don't have the means to pay for it. Every day our priorities seem to be more screwed up in this country. But then, the masses seem to care more about every detail of Brittney Spears life than starving children in Appalachia and our inner cities, so go figure. I think we're all fscked.

Re:Does anyone else find it odd that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843310)

A cat with cancer was receiving radiation therapy? Don't get me wrong, I love cats and animals in general, but who pays possibly thousands of dollars for cat radiation therapy?
So given that there are magnitudes more people paying thousands of dollars for home entertainment systems (or SUVs or ...) than for cat radiation therapy, do you consider home entertainment systems (or SUVs or ...) to be a symptom of priorities that are screwed up? Why go on vacation when you could have spent that money for someone else's chemo?
 

The man from the cat detector van. (5, Funny)

Aussie (10167) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843178)

C: The man didn't have the right form.
S: What man?
C: The man from the cat detector van.
S: The looney detector van, you mean.
C: Look, it's people like you what cause unrest.
S: What cat detector van?
C: The cat detector van from the Ministry of Housinge.
S: Housinge?
C: It was spelt like that on the van (I'm very observant!). I never seen so
      many bleeding aerials. The man said that their equipment could pinpoint
      a purr at four hundred yards! And Eric, being such a happy cat, was a
      piece of cake.
S: How much did you pay for this?
C: Sixty quid, and eight for the fruit-bat.
S: What fruit-bat?
C: Eric the fruit-bat.
S: Are all your pets called Eric?

When my father was radioactive... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843194)

My father once was given a tracer, which is a very small doses of radioactive diagnostic drink. It makes you slightly more radioactive than normal. Maybe 6 or 8 times as much as normal, which is still very low and can be easily dealt with by a human. It is a lot, a lot less than when obtaining a cancer treatment. Two days later he walked into a science fair. People could hold their finger on a Geiger-Teller to measure the radioactivity of their body. My father lined up as well. The two people before made the loudspeakers do: '...tick........tick...tick..........tick..................tick....' When is was my fathers turn it went: 'TICK!TICK!TICK!TICK!TICK!TICK.' and you saw some people behind him step out of line.

This is Nothing (4, Interesting)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843200)

A lot of my family is from Oak Ridge TN, where the nuclear payload for the atomic bombs dropped in WWII was fabricated there is now a national lab.

It's common knowledge that frogs are a problem for the feds around there. That's amphibians, not the French.

Here's the problem. Frogs live in the ponds by the cooling towers. The frogs are radioactive. The frogs jump out on the road and get squished. There are then lots of radioactive tires rolling in and out of town. The multi-million doallar system purchased to keep people from sneaking radioactive material out of the area is therefore useless.

Why the hell is the water in the coolant ponds radioactive? Isn't that a bad sign? Nobody cares, they are all used to it by now. The thing with the frogs sure is funny though.

My friend used to work in a nuclear assay lab (3, Interesting)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843246)

They would monitor for leaks by collecting biological samples, oxidizing them down to ash, then mixing the ash in liquid scintillator then counting the rate of flashes in the fluid.

She said all the pine needles in the woods near Oak Ridge are highly radioactive.

She also monitored the lobsters caught in the Pacific next to the San Onofre plant near San Diego. Once they sent up extra lobsters: some to assay, and some to eat!

Warning. Re:This is Nothing (2, Funny)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843330)

Hey, that piece of information ought to be classified and you ought to keep your trap shut instead of blathering out in open like this.
If the terrorists read about this, then they would plan like below:
1. Come to Oak Ridge, TN with an empty 2-tonner truck.
2. Squash and drive over thousands of radioactive frogs in a matter of weeks shouting their usual battle cry "death to infi..."etc.
3. Buy a Geiger counter locally and check for enough radioactivity.
4. Skip to Mexico/border country and get a dirty bomb (I was watching "Goldfinger" Bond movie yesterday), the iodine kind which emits less radioactivity.
5. Load onto this radioactive-tired truck (of course you would be stupid enough to drive out from TN all the way to Mexico on same tires and expect same radioactivity. So you stove away the tires and buy new/used ones which are NOT radioactive to drive to mexico. When you drive back you latch on the radioactive tires).
6. Border guards stop your truck since it seems to be glowing with radioactivity. They look at the tires and the tired guys at wheel. Of course the terrorists would be telling the truth about Oak Ridge TN and telling them they had just made a delivery to that place. They can also produce a newspaper clipping or something which proves even the frogs are radioactive and ask the border guards to talk to the Sherrif there to prove it.
7. Border guards allow the truck with "Medical Cargo" to enter US.
8. About two weeks later somewhere an incident happens....
9. Bush gets elected for a 3rd Time after tearing up the constitutionand is actually seen on Fox News using it as toilet paper to wipe cheney's ass with it.
10. Cheney asks "So?"

There, see the probabilities of imagination? ..and that is why you must never discuss confidential or "could be potentially confidential" stuff on slashdot.
The KGB was right.

Just what I need! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843234)

I had (most of) my thyroid out due to papillary cancer two weeks ago. In a few months, they are supposed to ablate the remaining parts with radioiodine (enough that I can't be around people for two or three days). I am going to feel like hell, and honestly, if someone stopped me and searched my car on that day, I think I'd get a pass on my flipout.

I know, I know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843240)

The owner existed in a quantum state: either he exists or he doesn't! LOLz!

What ?? - no Steve Martin references ? (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843262)


I hope they put the thing in cat handcuffs.

Wisdom follows, pay attention! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22843266)

The really sad thing about this story is there are over 40 million people, including kids, in America who have no medical insurance coverage whatsoever. If they have cancer they are free to die and noone cares a damn about them. There are hundreds of millions of people in the Third World getting no medical service at all for lack of doctors and poverty.

Yet, american cats are being radiation treated and apparently no slashdotters notice how crazy that is. One of the reasons so many people worldwide are terrified by the americans. The idea of humanism and solidarity seems to be missing entirely from the anglo-saxon ethos and the media cultivates thinly veiled vulgar social-darwinist ideas.

Excerpt from terrorist handbook (5, Funny)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22843328)

"Feed cat Plutonium pellets with kibble. Wrap cat in detcord. Place timer on cat and set for five minutes. Release mouse on crowded street. Release cat after mouse. Run. Remember to face Mecca at 4:29 after you release cat." "Oh, don't forget to plug ears."
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