Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


California Bob reports:

Fascinating.  This is a "bomb detection unit" marketed by a British guy.  He sold tens of millions of dollars worth, mostly to Iraq.  It is a plastic handgrip with a car antenna stuck in it.  Notable quotes:
  • "It requires no battery or power source; it is powered solely by the user's static electricity. The operator must walk for a few moments to "charge" it before using it. It uses "programmed substance detection cards" which are designed to "tune into" the "frequency" of a particular explosive or other substance. The cards were supposedly "programmed" by being placed in a jar for a week along with a sample of the target substance to absorb the substance's "vapours"."
  • "The ADE 651 is a descendant of the Quadro Tracker, promoted as a device to find lost golfballs, and later as a means of detecting marijuana, cocaine, etc., using "carbo-crystalised" software cards. Like the ADE 651, The cards were "programmed" by photocopying a Polaroid photograph of the target, cutting up the resulting copy and pasting the pieces between two squares of plastic."
  • Selling prices were from several thousand to $60,000 per unit.
  • "The programming method was to take a Polaroid photograph of the desired target—gunpowder, cocaine, or on one occasion, an elephant—blow up the image on a Xerox machine, cut up the copy into fragments, and use these to provide the card with its “molecular signature.” "
  • "The connecting wires inside stopped short of making contact, and the pistol grip was molded from plastic and could never conduct a current; the antenna, one scientist later testified, was “no more a radio antenna than a nine-inch nail.” The detectives found McCormick had abandoned the programming idea as soon as his order book swelled, and the wands sent to Iraq didn’t even have his colored stickers inside them."
  • "McCormick was said to have answered that the device did "exactly what it's meant to ... it makes money.
Apparently the success of the fraud was due to the buyers (Iraqi military generals) gettting kickbacks for awarding no-bid contracts.  The hard part was proving intent to defraud, because the guy never made false representations about how it worked.  When asked, he said he didn't know exactly -- it just did.  Nonetheless English courts found him guilty and he is now in prison.  The Iraqi military continues to stand by the devices.
There is no better target for fraud than the corrupt. The danger of course is that an actual bomb would not be detected and could then explode and kill people. I kind of doubt whether we will ever know if this happened. I mean, would you trust testimony from someone who believed this thing worked? From a Bloomberg-Business Week story.

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