Rodents: The New Airport Bomb Sniffers
In Israel, mice being trained to detect explosives, drugs
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2011 7:51 AM CST
These little guys could soon take the place of airport scanners.   (©Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden)

(Newser) – Which would you rather be exposed to: those pesky new “naked” airport scanners, or … rodents? In Israel, mice are being trained to sniff out bombs and drugs, in a system researchers say will be more accurate than pat-downs, x-rays, or sniffer dogs. The mice would be hidden in a device that looks like a scanner or typical metal detector, in cartridges where air is pumped in from outside. When drugs or explosives are detected, they run to another chamber and an alarm is triggered.

The mice will work in teams of eight for four-hour shifts, and more than one must flee in order for the alarm to go off, the Daily Mail reports. The rodents are easier to use than dogs, who need constant interaction (or at least doggie treats) to stay motivated, and the contraptions they work from are cheaper than the equipment currently being used. Air travelers will probably like the solution too, because, as a security expert points out to New Scientist, “the mice don’t see you naked.”

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Showing 3 of 5 comments
nj12nets
Feb 4, 2011 12:52 PM CST
I love the idea of trusting animals in lieu of necessary legal documents like warrants and such. A k9 unit is enough cause for search and seizure, even though it's been proven that the k9 can react to many more substances than the drugs or explosives they are looking for. Not only that handlers can influence or say the dog reacted a certain way and who can truly dispute the handler's word that the dog reacted to something hidden.
RidersOnTheStorm
Feb 3, 2011 10:20 AM CST
as Jimmy Cagney would say: "Mmm, that dirty, double-crossin' rat"
Dro_Trebor
Feb 3, 2011 8:17 AM CST
I trained mice and rats for many years. They are indeed capable of this kind of discrimination/detection task. What's more, pigeons have been used for both facial recognition (spot the terrorist perhaps?) and bomb guidance (back before we had accurate GPS and computers).