Krissa and I have just spent the last fifteen minutes rolling around the apartment laughing about bees in boxes and the war on terror. Well, not laughing at the war on terror, but laughing at the thought of four or five FBI agents running around an airport after a bee yelling "Where is he going? Position Zeta, can you get a confirmation on where he's going?" and the bee would say to himself in bee language, "Guys, chill out, I'm just cruising for flowers."
This is because of an article in this week's New Scientist about the use of insects as a cheap alternative to sniffer dogs, which cost upwards of $15,000 to train. To school wasps and bees in crimefighting, you expose them to explosives (or whatever you'd like them to detect), while giving them sugared water, which is a hell of a lot cheaper than Pedigree Chum, and you don't have to take them for a walk every day either. After few drops of syrup with a hint of C4 on the side you have a batch of insectile bloodhounds; sensitive enough to detect a chemical as dilute as a few parts per trillion - comparable to a grain of salt in a swimming pool or the whispy traces of a substance on the hands of a man walking through an airport.
According to the article you take five of your trained little yellow and black guys, put them with a camera in a box. Then you blow air through it with a fan and wait for them to go nuts...or stick their tongues out, depending on whether you're using wasps or bees, but putting the finer points of technique aside for a moment, you've got some bees in a box and you're looking for bombs.
Then came fits of laughter about airports crawling with bees, bee-leashes and FBI agents tearing up innocently visited flowers looking for explosives and doing the waggle-dance in suits and shades.
I love my wife.
THEN, though, she asked in all seriousness why they couldn't use something more...gadgetty for all this. I said (I hope I wasn't wrong) that you'd have to pass air through a number of different tests to see if any of them came up positive by, say, turning another gas green, and it would be slow, and tricky with really tiny amounts of trace chemicals.
Krissa said 'Why can't you just use a gas that would react?"
Yet again I was poised with what I thought was the know-it-all answer, and I started to say, "...because you'd have to pass all the air through that gas, and it would dilute, and you'd have to use a lot of it and if you did that and it reacted a lot there'd be a big plume of reacting gas..." and then we both sort of stopped.
"Like at the POOL," and the giggles started again.
So this is my contribution to society for today - fill airports with a non-lethal cocktail of gases so that if a terrorist walks in with traces of explosives on his clothes he'll turn the air around him into clouds of blue and everyone will look at him and he'll be stunned by social awkwardness until several hundred pounds of security guard land on his head.
And very possibly swarms of sexually frustrated hungry attack bees.
You won't have to do it at every airport, and if the urban myth is believed, you won't have to do it at all. Just take out ads in the papers - if you piss in the pool (figuratively speaking) everyone will know what you done and point at you and laugh behind their hands and no girl will ever kiss you because you smell and your Mum won't be happy with you when she gets you home and your Dad gets to hear about it. Figuratively speaking.