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Science of a flightmare

Over the past 24 hours, the new threat of liquid explosives wielded by terrorists has transformed the way we think of air travel. Strangely enough, I was caught up in today's "flightmare" while making my way from Seattle to Houston for Friday's briefings on the next shuttle mission (which you can watch on NASA TV online).

But rather than regale you with tales of my 16-hour odyssey - which surely can be topped many times over by other travelers - I'll just point you in the direction of other resources that shed additional light on this new front in the terror techno-war:

  • Our own Web site has plenty to offer, ranging from the nuts and bolts of the liquid-explosive threat to the potential countermeasures that still haven't really been tried, and even a tech-oriented message board on the new travel restrictions.
  • The "How Stuff Works" Web site presents a tutorial on how liquid explosives work.
  • Scientific American's blog speculates on exactly which type of liquid explosive is at issue (TATP, anyone?), and provides links to further speculation.
  • Popular Science presents a special report on technology vs. terrorism.
  • The Akron Beacon Journal contributes a prescient little piece on how polymer sniffers could counter potential terror threats. Here's an archived article from New Scientist about polymer sensors.
  • The Counterterrorism Blog provides an exhaustive roundup of what's being said about the liquid-explosives plot - including the frequent allusions to the similar "Bojinka" liquid-explosives plot that was hatched by World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, but never put into effect. The blog also refers to the lesser-known Philippine plot involving toothpaste tubes and shampoo bottles back in 2004 - a sign that counterterrorism agencies should have known this was coming.

MSNBC is providing plenty of avenues for feedback on this developing story - but if you want to send along links to other online resources on terror tech (and even better, counterterror tech), feel free to leave them in your comments.