How not to do science

Are the TSA’s much-reviled body scanners safe? Some scientists aren’t sure. They say that existing analyses, which were designed for X-ray machines, aren’t appropriate to body scanners. X-ray machines distribute their radiation throughout the body, but body scanners apply it all to the skin, resulting in a much higher exposure than an X-ray-based analysis would suggest.

In response, the government was able to muster only this:

The FDA asserts that its method is correct. “This is how we measure the output of X-ray machines and how we’ve done it for the past 50 years,” says [FDA spokeswoman Kelly] Classic.

“We’ve always done it this way” is not a scientific rebuttal.

POSTSCRIPT: Some of the dubious scientists think the machines probably are safe (“You would have to be a heavy traveler to accumulate a large dose.”) but others aren’t sure (“At this point, until I knew more information, I’d tell people to take the pat-down.”)

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