Is that Lithium in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Excited to See Me?

I shaved my head. And I’m not sad, and just maybe
I’m to blame for all I’ve heard. And I’m not sure.

– from Lithium , by Nirvana (1991)

Yeesh, we’re turning Transportation Safety Administration airport inspectors into a cross between CSI forensics drones and Tom Swifties. News today is that TSA officials will now check to see if your laptop/cell/MP3/etc. batteries contain more than 8g each of lithium, or whether any extra batteries — which cannot be in checked luggage — add up to more than 25g of additional lithium.

Great. It wasn’t enough that I had been forced to smuggle contact lens solution through security for a while in my pockets. Now security lines will expand wildly as inspectors turn solid-state chemist and try to figure out how many watt-hours (the TSA proxy for lithium content) each of the people in front of me’s batteries contain.

Leave aside the absence of explanation — someone at Slashdot suggests it’s a TSA contest for most ridiculous blocked substance, with the winner getting a “I is stoppin’ der terrarists” t-shirt — it’s distressing travel news. Soon the only lithium I’m going to have when I travel is the sort you use to ward off TSA-induced bipolar disorder.

I have a suggestion. Let’s ban humans from planes. Strikes me they’re fundamentally the source of all the risk. We could just have planes zoom around empty creating pretty jet trails overhead.


  1. I’ve seen TSA do so many blatantly foolish things that nothing surprises me WRT these morons.
    If TSA was serious about immediately increasing (or at least normalizing) aircraft security, it would ban all carry-ons. Until then, everything they do is a farce.
    Why not take it to extremes? Transport people & their stuff *in separate planes*. Again, if the objective really is to increase the security of the flying public, stop the charade and do something real.
    Till then, the TSA goons should stop pretending that allowing 3 oz of this or that on the plane will make any difference at all to anyone.

  2. “I have a suggestion. Let’s ban humans from planes. Strikes me they’re fundamentally the source of all the risk.”
    I am still holding my sides laughing at the sheer obviousness of that statement. I didn’t travel as much this year as I used to. While I miss being on the road, I don’t miss the TSA … no sir, not one bit.

  3. Brent Buckner says:

    Pffft. “Solution Unsatisfactory”.

  4. My brother and I were talking a couple of weeks ago about how some of his colleagues fly in donuts when they come to CA from Boston. He was musing that they should get extra special treatment because some donuts are jelly filled. Turns out someone at the TSA had the same thought:
    FWIW, I didn’t have any trouble getting a deep dish pizza through security at ORD.
    I’m guessing the screeners weren’t hungry.
    I’m guessing the screene

  5. Greeeat. I fly constantly with at least 4 mobiles, an iPod, and a laptop with extra batteries. This should go well.