Detector Base

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Frequently Asked Questions...

Question for story I'm writing?

I'm writing a future-set World War III story involving a nuclear missile/bomb attack on US soil and needed some information about how plausible some concepts for ideas I had are:

1. An X-ray triggered detonator. Is it at all possible?
2. Do baggage checks at airports just do x-ray, or do they also do CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) scans?
3. Are metal detectors based on magentism of the objects, or are they composition-based detectors?

Thanks for your help.
If this someday gets published, I'll mention you folks in the acknowledgements!

Best Answer...


1. X-rays, as with any moving particle or wave, have energy to them. They therefore may impart energy onto an object (e.g. heat). A detonation of a bomb is nothing more than the release of energy following a physical/chemical system change. These usually begin with an initial energy investment (such as heat with a lighted fuse). So, in theory, an x-ray that provides the required energy to begin a system change may detonate a bomb.

Now, the energy that an x-ray gives off is roughly in the range of 10^3 - 10^5 eV (to have an idea to compare this to, an eV is an "electron Volt" and is equal to ~1.6*10^-19 Joules (a Joule is the standard measurement of energy). A very basic measurement of a joule may be the total heat a sleeping person releases). Obviously, a person does not release as much as a lit fuse and more so, an x-ray does not even begin to measure up to that already low amount. So, an x-ray alone is NOT a practical way to detonate a bomb. However, their may be an x-ray diode that registers the x-ray and acts as a detonator.

2. I am unsure. Lately, I would assume the latter.

3. I would say neither (though the composition is partly right). They are based on varying electro-magnetic currents. The current that travels through the coil's of the head switches randomly and often, causing a fluctuating electro-magnetic field with anything nearby. Things don't have to be "metal" for the detector to find them, they just have to be conductive.