The Age has published a remarkably stupid article about terrorism titled “It’s hard to prevent the hard to imagine” which contains some amusing statements such as “a plan to use liquid explosives hidden in soft-drink bottles and destroy commercial jets crossing the Atlantic. The scale of this plot, combined with the innovative bomb design, threatened to kill thousands of people and cause massive disruption to global commerce“. This however has been debunked by many chemists, here is one of the many expert analysis of the claims.
Here’s another inane claim from The Age “So the perpetrators in the UK looked elsewhere and compiled a crude yet potentially deadly bomb from materials available in everyday life — a mix of gas cylinders, petrol and nails. Finding a way to govern access to such otherwise mundane items will be expensive, and perhaps ultimately, impossible.“. It’s surprising that The Age editorial team were unable to find someone who knows the basics of chemistry or who has ever had a need to start a fire to review the article. Everyone should know that an oxidising agent is necessary for combustion – and a huge quantity of an oxidising agent is needed for an explosion. Petrol vapour won’t ignite if it’s too concentrated (it can displace enough oxygen to prevent combustion). When a gas cylinder is damaged and set alight you get a fireball surrounding it which may be several meters wide (the one occasion that I witnessed a damaged gas cylinder on fire the fire-ball was about 4 meters wide). But no explosion. To propell nails or other solid objects you need the combustion to be rapid and only on one side of the object. Combustion on all sides (IE a 4 meter wide fire-ball) will not propell nails. Here’s what a British Army bomb-disposal operator has to say about it in The Register.
If you want to talk about dangerous items that are difficult to control how about cars? A terrorist who drove a 4WD along the footpath of Oxford St could potentially kill more people than the London bombings and would take almost no preparation.
The article inevitably concludes with claims about the efforts that al Qaeda operatives are supposedly making to recruit people for terrorist missions. Naturally it ignores the best recruiting method of al Qaeda – the huge civilian death toll in Iraq since the US led invasion. The best available medical research (by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and published in The Lancet – the most reputable and prestigious medical journal) estimates that there were 655,000 “excess deaths” as a result of the invasion in the period up to July 2006. Over the last year the best available reports suggest that the violence in Iraq has got worse (among other things the number of US air-strikes is twice what it was last year).
For more analysis of the fear-mongering being done by much of the media (including The Age) here’s another article from The Register.
It’s interesting to read The Age’s article Truth first casualty of the internet?. Maybe they should publish an article titled Intelligence first casualty of print media?.