Saturday, June 12, 2010


Robert Park tells this story:
According to a story in The Independent (UK) on Tuesday, the investigation into the sale of fake bomb detectors has been expanded to a number of firms in the UK. It seemed comical fourteen years ago when we learned that golfers were buying fraudulent golf-ball finders (WN 12 Jan 96). The Quadro Tracker was nothing but an antenna mounted on a pistol-grip with a swivel that was free to rotate 360°. An almost imperceptible deviation of the swivel from horizontal would cause the antenna to rotate to its lowest point under the force of gravity. To a credulous observer it might seem to be controlled by some mysterious external force. Quadro soon began marketing them to law enforcement agencies and the Department of Defense for $995 each to search for drugs and weapons. After it failed a simple test, Sandia National Labs dissected one and found it contained no internal parts. The FBI shut Quadro down and arrested its officers (WN 26 Jan 96). However, the device soon reappeared in the UK as the ADE 651, sold by ATSC for prices as high as $48,000. As WN reported (WN 29 Jan 2010), at least 1,500 were sold to the government of Iraq as bomb detectors at a cost of millions of dollars. Reliance on the fake bomb detectors reportedly contributed to hundreds of bomb deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, including British and American troops.
I wonder how many of us are careful in evaluating information we receive from people, but accept information we receive from a "measuring instrument"? Of course the credulity of the consumer does not excuse the fraud of the vendor, but there may be a lesson here for us consumers.

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