Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Security Your Rights Online

NYC Wants to Ban Geiger Counters 457

Ellis D. Tripp noted a village voice article about attempts in NYC to pass a law requiring permits for air monitoring devices including apparently geiger counters. I'm sure everyone will feel much safer not knowing anything.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NYC Wants to Ban Geiger Counters

Comments Filter:
  • RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by moogied ( 1175879 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:11PM (#22208876)
    The title is very misleading, its actual a response to a possible panic caused by people using bad detectors. Imagine if hundreds of people buy shitty detectors that can be tripped by high NOX counts(A car emission). Suddenly on a hot afternoon during rush hour, 100+ counters register a large nuclear presence. Thats a big worry.
    • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dnoyeb ( 547705 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:20PM (#22208982) Homepage Journal
      Creating laws to combat hypothetical future situations is a waste of time. Let there be some evidence that the situation is actually feasible or enevitable before we pass a law preventing it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I don't think there's anything wrong with preparing for 'hypothetical future situations'. In fact, I'm all for it. The problem in this particular instance is that they haven't properly thought about the severity of the situation they are trying to combat. Does the possible increase in false alarms warrant the outlawing of 'air monitoring devices'? I don't think it does. A better solution would be (as another poster mentioned) a fine for those who 'falsly alarm' :D. However, I think there is no need for such
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jugalator ( 259273 )
        I don't agree with this. I agree with this opinion if it's about e.g. serious things like starting pre-emptive wars on dubious facts, but not in case these detectors have for example been shown to signal false positives in lab environments under fairly normal conditions. That could be a real hazard that is just waiting to happen, and I don't think the price to pay would be too great if setting some certification requirements these detectors need to pass.

        At this point, yes, if they're outright banning these
        • Re:RTFA (Score:4, Insightful)

          by orclevegam ( 940336 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @02:40PM (#22210610) Journal
          I haven't read the actual legislation, but based on the quotes from the article, this law would make possession of basically any detector a misdemeanor, unless you got a special license for possession from the police department. Your suggestion, that detectors should be required to be certified, makes sense, and the requirement to possess that certification should be on the vendor of the detector. If need be, make it a misdemeanor to sell an unlicensed detector, but I see no reason at all to make possession of the devices illegal. One example given in the counter-arguments for the legislation was that someone with a air quality monitor, merely transferring flights in NYC during a multi-flight trip, would be committing a misdemeanor by getting off the plane (or possibly by being on the plane when it lands, depending on how you figure jurisdictions). Of course, IANAL, take with a grain of salt, and all that.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by rtb61 ( 674572 )
            What it 'smells' (sic) like, is more like a closet law to protect corporate polluters from concerned citizens. It would virtually insure that no corporation would come under investigation for air pollution as anybody who attempted to report them would come under immediate criminal investigation for owning an unlicensed potential terrorist device.

            This sounds like some really sick Department of Homeland/Republican (in)Security idea to totally cripple what little is left of the EPA. Sneak the law in New York

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MikeBabcock ( 65886 )
          In other news, some people don't use their signal lights properly when changing lanes.

          Misuse of a meter may cause personal panic. Misuse of a car frequently causes death.

          Why do we care about all the wrong things?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        You're right. It would be much better to create a law "being in a charge of a high-tech gadget while stupid", punishable by up to 3 years in jail.
    • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:27PM (#22209052)
      If NYC is worried about bad geiger counters, have one of the universities create a low-cost calibration and test program and then offer all who pass an oppotunity to join in a web ring or something. Seems to me like a good way to get the city monitored for almost free and to give the authorities a heads up if there are lots of spurious readings. Sounds like a win-win to me, how expensive could a basic check be ?
      • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Funny)

        by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @01:03PM (#22209464)

        how expensive could a basic check be ?
        Famous last words.

      • Easier still (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Solandri ( 704621 )
        Just draw up some calibration specs and pass a law requiring that any geiger counters sold in NY have to meet those specs. No need to ban the things.
      • Re:RTFA (Score:4, Informative)

        by dondelelcaro ( 81997 ) <don@donarmstrong.com> on Monday January 28, 2008 @03:29PM (#22211356) Homepage Journal

        how expensive could a basic check be?

        For certification purposes, it costs my lab around $75.00 to get a geiger counter certified. (If you didn't care about certification and just wanted to verify that it was within an order of magnitude, a point source of known activity with known distance would make it fairly trivial, and could even be done on a walk-in basis for a few bucks.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        If NYC is worried about bad geiger counters

        Unless their concern is really the opposite of this. What if - hypothetically speaking, of course - there was a government that wanted to use fear to keep the population cowed and receptive to the forfeiture of its civil liberties in return for greater security. As long as citizens don't have access to detection technology, it could stage all of the fake terrorist attacks it wants and nobody would be the wiser. All that would be necessary is to make an announcement to the local media that something terribl

    • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:27PM (#22209056) Journal
      Umm, the article was pretty accurate. They're preventing them preemptively to stop "False alarms". What part of this do you think could possibly go right? Okay, here's one. How about we disable sprinklers to prevent false alarms, because too many people have false alarms?

      How about you have to apply for a permit that you're not necessarily granted for science research? Oh wait, the article has that as a concern. From the article: "Dave Newman, an industrial hygienist for the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, claimed that under this law, the West Virginia air-quality experts who tested the air after 9/11 would have been a bunch of criminals."

      Yeah, good idea, if you want to make the world a thoughtcrime maybe. I mean this is so far as to call possession of a geiger counter something you can be be fined for. That in itself is a bit of crazy.

      • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MindKata ( 957167 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @01:27PM (#22209640) Journal
        Ok, so mistaken readings could cause a group panic. Then again, permits for what is basically sensors is a nanny state attitude bordering very much on Big Brother. Once again showing the old idea of the road to hell is paved with good intentions. They want to control everything, as its in peoples best interests. Its the wrong solution. They should be educating people not controlling.

        It also shows how much of a diet of fear and panic America is currently suffering. Looks like they are now worrying about people worrying so much that they panic! ... that much stress isn't helping anyone in the long run and certainly not a suitable environment within which to choose reactionary new laws and controls.
        • Then again, permits for what is basically sensors is a nanny state attitude bordering very much on Big Brother.

          The argument has made repeatedly on Slashdot that computer users should be licensed - that users should demonstrate a mastery of basic skills and show some sense of responsibility for the potential consequences of his actions.

          But tell the Geek that he needs a license before toying with class 4 biologic and radiological alarms and the world becomes a nanny state.

      • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <jmorris@beau . o rg> on Monday January 28, 2008 @01:41PM (#22209820)
        > Yeah, good idea, if you want to make the world a thoughtcrime maybe.

        Oh you fuddyduddy libertarian. ;)

        Seriously though I think it is a perfectly logical progression. After all we have already been told by every right thinking person[1] that NYC has to operate under different rules, that certain otherwise fundamental liberties must be compromised to make such a metropolis fuction.

        Seriously, count em:

        1. The second Amendment is pretty much void in New York. The former mayor[2] carefully explained in a recent debate that 'laws that make sense in New York might not make sense in flyover country' so I list this one first to put the accepted precedent that the idea that core Consitituitional liberties vary by population density is now accepted policy. Or I totally missed the nationwide outrush of rage, the riots, etc.

        2. The right to property is probably most circumscribed in NYC. See the history of several generations of Rent Control for details.

        3. The Right to follow a profession of one's choice is pretty much null and void in NY, between the unions and the almost total control by the city government through licensing and regulation designed not to pretect the public but to control entry into the professions to protect the current workers from competition.

        4-999 could be filled in by anyone depressed enough to type that long.

        No, if one accepts the base logic that makes that level of State control acceptable, allowing them the monopoly power to control information about the safety (read the actual performance of regulators) makes perfect sense. So all I can say is, suck it up Citizen, turn in your detectors and listen to the Safety and Civil Reassurance Administration when they calmly inform you everything is 'perfectly safe.'

        Of course you COULD start demanding the whole fetid mess of dank rotting crap go to Hell. You don't even have to be a Ronulan to say that.

        [1] Defined of course by the editorial board of the NYT and usually Socialist house organs such as the Village Voice. Nice to see one of their sacred oxes served up on the grill.

        [2] With the partial agreement of all right thinking people[1] except they think he isn't enough of a gun banner.
    • The title is very misleading, its actual a response to a possible panic

      I see that, FTA:

      But a lot of these machines didn't work right, and when they registered false alarms, the police had to spend millions of dollars chasing bad leads and throwing the public into a state of raw panic.

      OK, none of that has actually happened.

      I suscribe to the many eyes philosophy. Open Source -- anybody can look for bad code -- more than most any centralized organization has.

      I'd imagine it's the same in the real word -- with

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
        If somebody calls in a false alarm, they should not be charged. If you smell rotten eggs, and call up saying you think there's a natural gas leak, then you shouldn't be charged if it in fact turns out to actually be rotten eggs. Reporting a safety problem shouldn't come with consequences, otherwise, people might be too afraid to report something. Maliciously reporting false information is one thing. But if you report something that you genuinely think is dangerous, you shouldn't be charged.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bwalling ( 195998 )

      The title is very misleading, its actual a response to a possible panic caused by people using bad detectors. Imagine if hundreds of people buy shitty detectors that can be tripped by high NOX counts(A car emission). Suddenly on a hot afternoon during rush hour, 100+ counters register a large nuclear presence. Thats a big worry.

      There's no evidence that this has happened or is likely to happen. It's better to keep laws to a minimum than to sit around making up hypothetical situation and then passing sweepin

    • Fire alarms can be triggered by steam from a shower. Should they require licensing too? People have actually died in their efforts to escape non-existent fires.
    • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by riseoftheindividual ( 1214958 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:43PM (#22209204) Homepage
      Imagine if hundreds of people buy shitty detectors that can be tripped by high NOX counts(A car emission). Suddenly on a hot afternoon during rush hour, 100+ counters register a large nuclear presence. Thats a big worry.

      That's as shitty a reason to criminalize something as I've ever heard in my life. What if 100 people ran around shouting "Anthrax" thus causing a panic? Maybe they should issue free speech permits to make sure only competent professionals will be heard.
      • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by omeomi ( 675045 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:51PM (#22209294) Homepage
        Maybe they should issue free speech permits to make sure only competent professionals will be heard.

        Give them time...they're working on it, I'm sure.
      • Re:RTFA (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jmac1492 ( 1036880 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:56PM (#22209366)

        What if 100 people ran around shouting "Anthrax" thus causing a panic? Maybe they should issue free speech permits to make sure only competent professionals will be heard.

        Except that that's not quite right. It is already illegal to cause a panic by any means, including shouting "Anthrax!" That law doesn't apply when the thing causing a panic (anthrax, Godzilla, the Pistons winning the championship) actually happened. Speech that doesn't incite a panic is still generally allowed.

        What should be done is regulate them these devices like smoke detectors. You are encouraged to have them, but you pay a fine if the authorities are summoned on a false alarm.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Smidge204 ( 605297 )
        Free speech already doesn't cover inciting panic, so if 100 people ran around shouting "Anthrax" causing a panic they would be arrested. Rightfully so IMHO.

        Not that I agree with the law, but at least I can sort of see where the idea comes from... not everyone is properly educated to operate a geiger counter and determine what its readings really mean in a given situation, and there is really no need for such a device in the hands of the general public.

        If people are really that paranoid to begin with, then i
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          My point had nothing to do with whether or not free speech allows someone to incite panic. Nothing at all. Why don't people get that?

          Look, when it came to criminalizing inciting panics, did they require free speech permits? No, they did not. They did not criminalize innocent behavior in the name of combating a potential problem. In this case, however, that is *exactly* what they are doing.

          Who is hurt by having a Geiger counter? nobody at all. Having and operating a Geiger counter is not a public menace
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )
      Ladies and gentlemen, I have a grave announcement to make. Incredible as it may seem, both the observations of science and the evidence of our eyes lead to the inescapable assumption that those strange beings who landed in the Jersey farmlands tonight are the vanguard of an invading army from the planet Mars.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by crakbone ( 860662 )
      I RFTA, and it would seem to me, that it would be better to hold the people that reported false alarms that caused a panic accountable instead of removing the availability for detectors. I can see in the near future that air detectors will get smaller and smaller in time. Emergency crews, paramedics, and first responders everyday run into substances and chemicals that cause major damage to them, that could be prevented by knowing that an area is dangerous. Even entering a room with methlab chemicals has
    • Yes, protect the people from information.

      I guess we should ban smoke detectors. After all, a bad detector could get tripped by someone cooking and cause a panic. I mean, how many false alarms did the NYC fire department respond to last year? Or those carbon monoxide detectors... the work of the devil!

      Seriously, the only ones in a panic here are the elected officials.
    • One word: Tchernobyl (Score:5, Informative)

      by arf_barf ( 639612 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @02:35PM (#22210526)
      On a beautiful 1986 summer day in Poland the secret police confiscated all Geiger detectors from all the schools and universities. A week later the world learned about the Techernobyl catastrophe. (This is a true story, my uncle was a chemist at one of the universities)
  • by photomonkey ( 987563 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:12PM (#22208888)

    I bet most New Yorkers don't know how to run a Geiger counter (or possibly even what one is).

    All the same, slaves were prevented from learning how to read, Jews in the death camps were not given any information about the war, their future, and today, people we want to strip of power are kept in the dark.

    Check my history, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I really think that those in power (ALL of them, not just the Bushies) have gotten to the point of realizing that the American populace have become dumb sheep. Through fear, all is possible for them.

    Refuse, resist.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Jews in the death camps were not given any information about the war, their future...
      You managed to Godwin a thread on Geiger counters by the 3rd post. That's got to be some kind of record...
  • by RationalRoot ( 746945 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:12PM (#22208890) Homepage
    Ha. Given the lawmakers usual understanding of things technological..... Anyone reckon that they will accidently ban Smoke Dectectors, Carbon Monoxide Alarms, Butane Gas Dectectors ?
  • This is ancient early 90s news but Brooklyn has been the site of nuclear waste storage [nytimes.com] and it concerns many citizens. There is a warehouse there called Radiac Research Corporation that has about enough nuclear material for one atom bomb, although I'm sure it's not refined to that. Citizen watch groups have formed that will walk around the streets with Geiger counters. You will find some shock reporting [www.vbs.tv] that has somethings factual and a lot of things anecdotal evidence. If you do watch those videos, ironically pay attention to the state employed inspector on the boat. Hard numbers and comparisons with other major cities are a must to make any effect in this kind of reporting. Still, I would be upset if stuff like this dried up. I think it's important so that the community at least feels like it has an independent non-interested voice--I would risk false alarms for that any day.

    I've also heard from other sources that New York City offers permits for polluting [nytimes.com] which isn't so wrong except that some of these are ridiculous. A lot of the rivers and streams to this day still are being polluted but since the companies are 'grandfathered' into pollution control, they can keep doing it. Do you ever think they're going to clean that up? I hardly think so.

    So they want to avoid false alarms that could cause a mass panic. But like a lot of things there is a trade off and the trade off is the ability to independently verify that the air quality or radiation levels are indeed safe. If I were a citizen living there, losing the latter in and of itself would cause me panic. Poor means you're at risk of being ignored & treated like you don't matter and I don't think New York City (especially historically) is any different from the rest of the world.
    • Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy@NospAm.gmail.com> on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:26PM (#22209042) Journal
      It's New York...Your average New Yorker, on plugging in a Geiger counter that immediately redlined and then exploded would say, "Eh, I figyaed as much." They know it's hazardous to live there, they take a weird sort of pride in it. I moved from New York to Georgia in 2002, and people were way more freaked out about 9/11 in Georgia than they were in New York...The city still had that "burnt tire" smell, but otherwise things were back to normal.

      Not to say there weren't some deep fricking scars, but you can't live there and be that high strung about environmental safety issues; the first day you come home, take off your white shirt and your white undershirt, and notice that, while they were the same color when you put them on, one of them is now a sort of stinky grey...You have to accept it and move on, or you will lose your fricking mind.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gnick ( 1211984 )
      There are many such groups across the country - Most of whom seem to be uninformed and alarmist folks that are frightened of the nuclear boogey-man and want to stop anything that may have been in contact with a stray neutron. There's a group largely centered in Santa Fe, NM [lasg.org] that goes around Los Alamos taking counts on plants and such and then posting pictures [lasg.org] of background radiation rates on their web-site to incite fear. Admittedly, some dirt piles are hotter than others - Just like everywhere else in th
  • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy@NospAm.gmail.com> on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:17PM (#22208946) Journal
    From TFA, the rationale is because they're worried that a bunch of shoddy devices will throw tons of false positives, and cause havok amongst emergency responders who would have to run around town constantly trying to weed out false leads.

    Frankly, it's crap. I seriously doubt as many people as they're representing are going to be buying these things; the vast majority will be installing them indoors, where they'll be lucky to detect ANYTHING, and the shoddy ones will tend to go off for crap that would set off your smoke alarm...I used to have a CO detector near my kitchen...It's somewhere in my backyard now, after the 10th time it went off when I dumped some liquor in a skillet to deglaze it.

    People may buy this stuff, but the vast majority won't, and the ones that do are almost MORE likely to view an alarm as a false positive than the police themselves. New Yorkers are tough bastards. They'll piss and moan, but they're not super-hazard conscious...You can't be, and live in the City all the time, because you're far more likely to be killed by a manhole or a cracked out subway driver than any terrorist.
    • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:30PM (#22209084) Homepage

      From TFA, the rationale is because they're worried that a bunch of shoddy devices will throw tons of false positives, and cause havok amongst emergency responders who would have to run around town constantly trying to weed out false leads.

      Frankly, it's crap.

      I agree. My BS detector is going off like crazy. Uh... I mean, my BS detector *would* be going off like crazy if I owned one.... which I don't... because owning a device that can measure the atmospheric content of BS is quite illegal and I wouldn't do anything like that.... *glances over shoulder nervously*
    • by cdrguru ( 88047 )
      The problem is reporting bogus results to news media people who then think "Instant Pulizer" and run with the story about the big government cover-up.

      If it gets reported fast enough, I'd bet you could get Manhattan evacuated.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jc42 ( 318812 )
      New Yorkers are tough bastards. They'll piss and moan, but they're not super-hazard conscious...You can't be, and live in the City all the time, because you're far more likely to be killed by a manhole or a cracked out subway driver than any terrorist.

      Just to point out that this wasn't hyperbole, there was that case a few years ago in which a New York woman was a few years ago [nytimes.com]killed by an electrified manhold cover. The testing that followed turned up hundreds of similar risky metal sheets on sidewalks thro
  • ...that phone?
    http://mobile.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/01/25/0514215&from=rss [slashdot.org]

    Oh, and read the first post. No, really - read it, and mod it up or reply that it's silly to pre-emptively ban 'unlicensed' used of geiger detectors on the off-chance that crappy ones will cause some manner of mass hysteria (imho - your reply may differ.. free will and all that.)
  • by MrJerryNormandinSir ( 197432 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:19PM (#22208966)
    The Russians mass produced personal gieger counters 6 months after the accident in Cherynobyl I bought one.
    It saved my ass in the 90s when I took my Wife and Kids to Ruggle's Mine in Maine! Basically it's a mica mine but when were were hiking I told my kids not to touch the yellow chalk like rocks that some kid was using to write his name on in the caves. i took my gieger counter out and measured 350millirads. I told the kids parents that the rock was radioactive and they should take him to wash his hand and to change his clothes and get him in a tub. I believe the yellow rock was pitchblend.

    heck.. I think a pocket gieger counter would come in handy.. why are they banning them? Is New York City's background radiation level higher than normal?
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:19PM (#22208970) Homepage Journal
    From TFA:

    "There are currently no guidelines regulating the private acquisition of biological, chemical, and radiological detectors," warned Falkenrath, adding that this law was suggested by officials within the Department of Homeland Security.
    This demonstrates how the movement of job security to government actually affects society: Whenever you create a new bureaucracy, you have created a few more beds in the economic fallout shelter known as "civil service" where people can escape from the very real degradation of households due to loss of job security in the general economy. These civil service positions are so vital for such basic things as having children in a reasonably secure environment and providing basic healthcare for them that people are literally willing to kill other citizens to get them. Among the many ways they kill other citizens are the unintended side-effects of activist bureaucracies trying to justify their 40-hours a week, sitting around in their government offices. They come up with "ideas" for how to justify their jobs and then, empowered by the time on their hands as well as the legislative mandates of their positions, proceed to terrorize their fellow citizens. I mean, after all, if they did nothing they might end up like the rest of us: paycheck to paycheck not knowing if we're going to be facing a foreclosure and potentially even homelessness for our families due to long term unemployment.
  • The World Today (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ObiWanStevobi ( 1030352 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:19PM (#22208974) Journal

    Well, immediately, this sounds retarded. However, I can picture one benign reason for this.

    We all saw what happened this month with Mass Effect. One idiot decides that it is equal to XXX porn without evver seeing it, and all sorts of people believe him and run with the story. Well, maybe they didn't believe him, but figured since he can be faulted for the mistake, they can run with it to scare people. I could see major "news" networks going nuts over a reading from some moron that wired his sensors wrong.

    Is that any reason to excuse this law? No. Just saying I could see one possible reason. Since Journalists can't be trusted to fact check, an incorrect reading could cause a mass panic that would obviously be very problematic.

    • Re:The World Today (Score:5, Insightful)

      by radtea ( 464814 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:38PM (#22209166)
      The world today is as it ever was: those in power attempting to disenfranchise the citizens by painting them as a bunch of untrustworthy morons who would never, ever let a bunch of wack-jobs, some with expired visas, train to fly aircraft into buildings...

      The organs of the state are a far greater risk to everyone today than terrorists, and the only people who did anything to stop the one successful foreign terrorist attack on U.S. soil were citizens who reported suspicious behaviour to the authorities, which ignored them. And the folks on United 93, who saved who knows how many lives at the cost of their own. The authorities have been no more successful in stopping domestic terrorism in the U.S., either.

      There is no excuse for keeping citizens in ignorance against the possibility that they might make a mistake with the imperfect knowledge they have.

      We, the people, have been far more endangered by governments panicing due to false alarms (WMDs anyone?) than anyone could possibly be endangered by any number of citizens with faulty air monitoring instruments. At least we have laws that can be used to punish people who give false alarms...
  • by Sangui5 ( 12317 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:20PM (#22208984)
    It seems that quite often, lawmakers listen (quite intently) to what government groups want the law to be. In this case, it is the city police who want this law. But the people don't benefit from it, just the police. The same thing holds for much of the Patriot Act; it is not a benefit for the people, but the FBI wanted it, and congress listened.

    The biggest trouble isn't false alarms, terrorists, or corporate lobbying. The biggest trouble is that government listens to itself more that it listens to the people.
  • Hopefully there won't be large penalties for owning one, if at all. Otherwise half of the building owners in NYC will probably be in trouble, because any building with an old fallout shelter probably has an old yellow Civil Defense geiger counter stuffed somewhere in it. Those things are like cockroaches, not only are they everywhere in old buildings, but they'd uselessly survive our destruction.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by An dochasac ( 591582 )
      They are like cockroaches, almost totally unafected by radiation ;-)

      I owned one of those I picked up at an antique shop. They aren't geiger counters, the rely on ionization without the cascade amplification that happens inside of a geiger-mueller tube.

      Look at the scale. You'd have to be inside a pile of pitchblend before the needle would move, and I doubt plutonium (an alpha emitter) would move the needle unless you somehow injected it inside the ionization chamber. They looked cool though, especially if
  • I thought that all mobile phones were supposed to have radiation counters [slashdot.org]. Make your mind up fellas!
  • by justsomecomputerguy ( 545196 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:29PM (#22209072) Homepage
    Only outlaws will have geiger counters!
  • by alan_dershowitz ( 586542 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:30PM (#22209076)
    I totally disagree with this law. The mere POSSESSION of a device like a Geiger counter or air quality tester is a misdemeanor. That is insane, and everyone should acknowledge this. BUT there is a real problem here, which is people buying inaccurate devices that they do not know how to operate. This is resulting in false positives which, when reported, police officials are obligated to investigate. At the very least this is a defense mechanism by the NYPD, because if something was reported and they didn't respond, if it turned out to be legitimate they would be held responsible.

    My problem is why is the citizen always perceived as the enemy? Why are criminal punishments always deemed the solution? Here is my solution: Establish a citizen corps of air/radiation testers. Require a minimum set of standards for equipment and require some sort of proof that the operator knows how to operate the device and that the device functions properly. This may involve some sort of licensure. If you meet the requirements and become a member, you will have established the repute required to report a crisis to the proper authorities.

    If you are not a member, you will still be allowed to own or operate these devices. However, if you detect a problem, you are obligated to report it to your closest deputy as defined above, who will verify and report it to the authorities if legitimate. You will not be punished for false positives because the purpose of the deputy is to filter these. However, if by your irresponsible actions you cause a panic, you will be held responsible, possibly criminally.

    This engages the community, establishes a system of responsibility and gives a method to report problems. No one has to give up their equipment. It's almost like we live in a society, where people work together and laws aren't just made on the spot to ban stuff and create criminals out of regular people.
    • by cdrguru ( 88047 )
      The problem - as you point out - is irresponsible people operating such a device and not knowing anything about it. I'll bet the source for this new law isn't just someone daydreaming and staring out the window trying to think up new laws.

      Imagine someone with a geiger counter gets some kind of reading. Are they going to call the police? Of course not. They are going to call their nearest friends. And the news media. I'll bet with the right propagation I could get the entire island of Manhatten evacuat
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MightyYar ( 622222 )

        I'll bet with the right propagation I could get the entire island of Manhatten evacuated before knowledgeable, responsible people could get a hold of the situation and calm people down.

        I bet not. This is Manhattan - we have crazy people wandering the streets screaming about radiation ALREADY! People here aren't going to believe you. We are the most skeptical people alive. A steam pipe fucking exploded in midtown in the middle of the working day and it only killed one person. This despite everyone's assumption that it was terrorism. Despite the parade of fleeing people coming down Park Avenue, people were actually walking TOWARD the mushroom cloud of steam to see what was up. A New York Y

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Any of this stuff could happen whether or not something like I suggested was in place. Here is the problem as I see it.

        * Banning Geiger counters is stupid because this is America and if I want a Geiger counter I should be able to own one. I'm not a criminal for owning a Geiger counter, don't make me into one for owning a clicking box.
        * If I want a Geiger counter, and if I think I need a Geiger counter for my safety, your dumb law is not going to stop me. Again, don't make me into a criminal for wanting to p
  • Futurama (Score:2, Funny)

    by jeffgeno ( 737363 )
    Scientists warned that the giant ball of garbage could someday return to Earth, but their concerns were dismissed as "depressing."
  • Other equipment (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrNougat ( 927651 ) <ckratsch@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:43PM (#22209200)
    They should equip everyone with Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses while they're at it.
  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:45PM (#22209218)
    America has come so, so far from my childhood when Popular Electronics (the terrorist, mob unleashing scum) would run feature articles on building the latest geiger counter kit.

  • by bernywork ( 57298 ) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [notelpatsb]> on Monday January 28, 2008 @12:51PM (#22209278) Journal
    I understand the point, but surely you have some kind of standards organisation. If the police have to respond to these things, why not just lean on the standards organisation to create a standard and then say to everyone "If you are calling in with a complaint, is your device certified?" Why not ban non-certified devices? Why go after the people? Why not just go after the crap that people buy?
  • Crossed wires (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zenopus ( 114516 )
    They obviously have not heard of this initiative: http://mobile.slashdot.org/mobile/08/01/25/0514215.shtml [slashdot.org]
  • That is one of the stupidest proposals that I've ever read. It would make my random number generator, which uses a Geiger counter, illegal in NYC.

    What sort of person would come up with an idea like this and then try to enact it into law? This is the same city that outlawed ferrets as pets, well known for their vicious attacks on socks and rubber duckies.

  • If Geiger counters are outlawed, then only outlaws will have Geiger counters.
  • by Ellis D. Tripp ( 755736 ) on Monday January 28, 2008 @01:01PM (#22209444) Homepage
    I might as well restate my feeling that this is less a reaction to fears of false alarms, than it is an attempt to head off independent investigations, like those that undermined the NYC/EPA "party line" concerning air quality after the 9/11 attacks.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault