'Fear detector' being developed

November 3, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog
Border control in the United States. Image: James R. Tourtellotte, via Wikimedia Commons.

(PhysOrg.com) -- British scientists are aiming to develop a device that can detect the smell of fear, and that could one day identify terrorists, drug smugglers, and other criminals.

The 18-month project to develop two sensor systems is being carried out at the City University London, and is being led by Professor Tong Sun. The project has funding from the Home Office Scientific Development Branch.

After a feasibility study is complete, two devices are expected to be designed to identify the fear pheromone in human sweat; one by laser absorption, and the other by a portable optical fiber instrument. The devices could be used to help police identify abnormal behavior at big events such as the 2012 Olympics.

The research project follows on from evidence gained last year in the US by scientists who collected the underarm sweat of 20 novice skydivers about to make their first jump. They then asked other volunteers, ignorant of the experiment's nature, to the samples via a nebulizer, while their brains were scanned. The study found the smell of fear is real, and that the parts of the brain associated with fear responded to the smell of fear.

The British scientists hope to use the effect to develop security systems that can detect the fear pheromone. The challenge, according to Sun, is in identifying and characterizing the specific for human fear, especially fear related to criminal acts.

The research will also examine potential problems such as interference by deodorants and perfumes, and will look at variations in pheromone production in different people.

Professor Sun said prototypes of the " detectors" could be developed within a couple of years, and she added that she saw no reason why there could not be similar detectors to identify other human odors by age, gender or race, in order to build a profile of a criminal.

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

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Nov 03, 2009
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5 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2009
"British scientists are aiming to develop another way to invade the privacy of their citizens for relatively little gains. The hope is that their law enforcement will have another tool to arrest or otherwise harass innocent people in an indiscriminate fashion."
Nov 03, 2009
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5 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2009
Too bad they cant detect psychopaths with this, since they exhibit no fear.
5 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2009
how they will separare fear from flying from fear from being caught, is going to be interesting. however, they assume fear, which may not even be present in a determined and mentally prepared individual. so its a cartoon concept of reality in which some pretenders to intelligence say "oh, this is how to do it, its obvious".

so they will catch agoraphobics, paranoids, fear of flying, those whose family is sick and they are trying to fly there in time. number of terrorists they will catch will be pretty nil as this is based on false assumptions.
not rated yet Nov 03, 2009
Like everyone else said an absolute fear level is useless.
But it could be used if they monitor a fear level and see if it changes based on some specific questions.

5 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2009
Those are going to be some busy devices. Most people spend most of their time living in varying degrees of fear. And when someone shows up with a fear detector, that will only amplify their fearfulness.

The alternative is to live one's life based on Love.
not rated yet Nov 03, 2009
i wouldn't mind a fear monitor for my personal use similar to a heart rate monitor. as far as catching criminals with it yeah good luck with that.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2009
Complete horse manure. Now they're going to start stopping me at airport check-ins because I have a natural fear of law-enforcement.

These are completely pointless, since mass diferentiation on detection (fear scanner at check-in) will be impossible and if you're using the detector when questioning someone that assumes you're already suspecting him of something so the detector would be redundant.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2009
yeah, it will also detect people that are nervous, or afraid of flying.
Nov 03, 2009
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Nov 04, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 04, 2009
It will work the other way round. Fearlessness is the indicator for evil intentions. You have to be afraid to be considered harmless.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 04, 2009
How about autistic people, very nervous and stress full, even fear, in crowded places. (i'm autistic) Or someone in fear of loosing his job, rushing to his work, missing his plane because he was caught having fear, comes to late at work and looses his job because he was investigated. They can't stop the terrorist! Al the shit load of technology, finger prints, bio scanners, etc, can't prevent someone killing people. And if the terrorist blows himself up in the action, the collected information has zero use.

In the end all good people loose their freedom, good people become chocked of all the control, and then some of them become... terrorists..
not rated yet Nov 04, 2009
This will be loved by politicians as a way to measure if their messages of fear is powerful enough to make us give up more freedoms. Local news will invest. "Your home may be killing your children! News at 11." Fear sells.

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