I just read a story about a guy who was detained and almost prevented from boarding his airplane because he had a homemade iPod charger—an iPod charger, I should add, that had absolutely no traces of explosives on it:

Homemade iPod charger

He asks what it is. I tell him it is a battery charger for my iPod. He asks if I made it myself, to which I reply that I purchased a kit over the internet. He says that he can’t let me on the plane with it. I explain to him that I have flown with it 4-6 times a month for a year now and nobody has questioned it. He says, “Not on my watch and not with my people.”

Now, I’m not an idiot, and I know that a device that looks like this is going to be suspicious at the least. But come on: it only takes a cursory glance at this thing to see that there’s no place to put any explosives! Let alone the fact that two D-cell batteries wouldn’t have the juice to blow up anything.

Kudos, though, to the Port Authority Police Department who were called to the scene who, upon investigating the device, they did a simple thing and plugged Damon Burke’s USB reading light into the charger and—surprise, surprise—the light lit up! At this point the security inspectors allowed him to board the plane, provided that he remove the evil, evil D-cell batteries from the charger.

Do we honestly think that things like this are making our flights safer? I think that Burke puts it best when he says:

They wouldn’t have grasped that the spare battery for my laptop was far more dangerous than the iPod charger. A dead short of the MintyBoost! would produce a little heat (maybe 4 watts total), a dead short of the laptop battery would likely cause an explosion of the battery…. and I had two of them fully charged. But these are the times we live in. A handful of people with no knowledge of physics, engineering, or pyrotechnics are responsible for determining what is and what is not safe to bring on a plane. They’re paid minimum wage and told to panic if they see something they don’t recognize. Does this make me feel safer? It doesn’t really matter.