The Ultimate Backscatter X-ray Scanner Quiz

Estimated Completion Time
3 min
The Ultimate Backscatter X-ray Scanner Quiz
Image: Marcus Moresby/Photodisc/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Backscatter X-ray scanners are being deployed at airports to help security personnel thwart terrorist attacks. How much do you know about the technology behind these sophisticated machines?
Backscatter scanners cost around how much?
$28,000
$150,000
At around $150,000 per unit, these scanners are expensive enough that you may wonder if the government is scanning your wallet, hoping to squeeze out more tax dollars to buy more security devices.
$220,000
$400,000

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When you submit to a backscatter scan, what are you being exposed to?
magnetic resonance scan
electromagnetic radiation
Don't forget your Geiger counter! The scanners emit weak electromagnetic radiation that the government says is most assuredly, positively, probably safe.
extreme magnetism

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To receive the same amount of radiation equal to one chest X-ray, you'd have to go through a backscatter scanner about how many times?
500
1000
5000
If you're flying this much, maybe it would be more economical to sprout wings?
9000

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When are you subjected to significantly more ionizing radiation than you'd receive during a single backscatter scan?
in the bathtub
during a cave exploration tour
during your flight
As planes ascend, passengers receive radiation exposure that's potentially hundreds of times higher than a scan.

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Partly due to concerns about radiation exposure, the TSA is testing another type of scanner. What kind of technology does it use?
dual-exposure X-ray
millimeter wave
You won't find it on the FM dial, but millimeter wave technology uses radio signals to create images similar to those from backscatter scanners.
centimeter wave

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Backscatter scanners create images that make people look nude. What is the TSA doing to allay privacy concerns?
removing the scanners from all airports.
telling sensitive travelers to wear lead undergarments that block the X-rays.
tweaking the scanner software to display generic body images.
With updated software, backscatter scanners display less risque images.

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Backscatter scanners emit X-rays, a type of electromagnetic radiation, which is made up of what?
atoms
ions
photons
Photons are emitted at a low level that's presumed to be safe for human exposure.

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Some scientists say the most likely health risk from backscatter X-rays is what?
skin cancer
Some researchers believe there's a remote chance that these scanners focus too much radiation on our sensitive skin.
DNA mutations
respiratory distress

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If you don't want to submit to a backscatter scan, what can you opt for instead?
tell security personnel that you'd prefer to bypass screening altogether
request a pat-down screening
Feeling frisky? Skip the scanner and ask security to pat you down instead. You may not enjoy the physical contact, but you'll avoid the scanner.
check in your handgun at the airline desk
run through the security checkpoint at a dead sprint

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Backscatter technology is extremely effective, in part because it detects certain objects that metal detectors do not. Such as?
liquid explosives
weapons hidden in body cavities
non-metallic weapons
Terrorists are a devious bunch. One of the big benefits of backscatter scanners is their ability to pick up on objects that other scanners can't see.
all of the above

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Backscatter scanners aren't just used in airports. You'll also find the scanners in what other location?
surveillance vans
Now you don't have to fly to get in your backscattering fun! The Feds can deploy mobile versions of these scanners and drive around, scanning the populace to their heart's content.
rock concerts
several major fast food restaurants

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The lower powered rays from backscatter scanners barely penetrate the skin. What does this mean in terms of security?
Most passengers will also have to endure a full body pat-down to ensure the safety of other fliers.
A determined terrorist could hide explosives in a body cavity to avoid detection.
We're not talking about the kind of cavities your dentist treats. A truly dedicated terrorist could potentially hide weapons in body cavities to trick security.
The scanners aren't very effective.

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The TSA spent about how much money to develop updated software that displays less revealing images of passengers?
$1.2 million
$2.7 million
The TSA spent millions to make sure the scanners show less detail. Some critics say the new software might make self-conscious travelers feel better at the expense of less effective security.
$3.2 million

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After they're reviewed, what happens to the images from a backscatter scanner?
They're deleted immediately.
Hopefully, they won't show up on Facebook! The machines can be configured to save images to a hard drive, but the TSA says airport scanners are programmed to discard images immediately.
They're transferred to an encrypted database.
They're displayed on a big-screen TV.

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Who filed a lawsuit against the TSA, claiming that the agency was secretly storing body scanner images?
FBI
EPIC
EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) filed the suit, alleging that the TSA was misleading the public about what happens to the pictures.
PETA

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Which government agency determines a safe level of radiation exposure from equipment such as body scanners?
Food and Drug Administration
Want some Prozac and spinach with your X-rays? The same agency that monitors food and pharmaceutical safety also plays a role in determining radiation exposure levels.
National Safety Council
Central Intelligence Agency

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To avoid a pat-down and breeze through the backscatter screening, what should you do?
remove all metallic objects
place all removable belongings on the X-ray conveyor belt
Now's not the time for modesty. Remove your shoes, belt and all of your personal accessories. Otherwise, you may need to undergo a closer inspection.
strip down to your bare skin (they are going to see you naked, anyway)

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If you are selected for backscatter screening, what will you be asked to do?
walk back and forth through the scanner until given an all-clear signal
stand still, holding a rigid pose, for a few seconds
Strike a pose, Madonna style. Or don't. Either way, you'll have to stand still while screeners analyze your image.
return to the end of the line for further processing

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In case of malfunction, X-ray scanners could subject passengers to a radiation overdose. What would this cause?
moderate radiation burns
minor skin blistering
unknown reactions
Nobody really knows for sure, as every human's DNA reacts a little differently to radiation exposure. Fortunately, the TSA says each machine has redundant mechanisms designed to prevent overexposure.

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Backscatter X-ray images are more detailed than traditional X-rays. Why?
Backscatter machines are equipped with better sensors.
Backscatter scanners penetrate more deeply into human bodies.
Backscatter X-rays are weaker but produce a more nuanced view of the target.
Although the backscatter beam is a relative weakling compared to regular X-rays, the scattering effect of the X-rays produces a clearer final image.

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You Got:
/20
Marcus Moresby/Photodisc/Getty Images
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