Metal plates send messages to airport x-ray screeners


From Make Blog:

One of my favorite artists, Evan Roth, is working on a project that will be released soon - the pictures say it all, it's a "carry on" communication system. These metal places contain messages which will appear when they are X-Rayed. The project isn't quite done yet, Evan needs access to an X-Ray machine to take some photos and document. If you have access to an X-Ray machine he's willing to give you a set of the plates for helping out (email fi5e [at]].
Metal plates send messages to airport x-ray screeners


  1. Be sure to show up to the airport at least two hours earlier than you otherwise would have. Also, find a good lawyer in advance.

  2. How about one that that says “X-Ray Safe”?

    just something to Baffle the freaking security guy.

  3. I’ve been willing, in the past, to be yelled at or even struck for a joke. Unfortunately a good tazering, strip search and loss of my luggage (or “evidence”) is out of the question. It’s a funny concept, though.

  4. As much as airport security theater infuriates me, that’s the last place I would even think to attempt any kind of civil disobedience.

  5. Back in simpler times(the early 90s), I proposed something like this while in art school. My version was a bit more sinister: a very thin sheet with die cuts of guns, bones, bomb parts, a hundred gerbils, etc… just a little visual gift to the person stuck staring at a monitor all day… That seems so long ago; these days, just writing this comment makes me nervous.

    The terrorists have won.

  6. #14 SNACKCAKE

    The terrorists have won because… you now think sending metal die cuts of guns through an airport x-ray machine is a bad idea?

    Unless by “terrorists” you meant “society.” Or you’re just more mature than you were in the early 90’s.

  7. How to save your *ss.

    Put it in a wooden frame ready for wall hanging.

    Then it’s nothing but an etched metal artwork.

  8. @snackcake, you’re right.
    @enginehere, they’ve won because;
    A)the security theater is here to stay
    B)even thinking about doing something to point out the futility of the security theater makes us scared. Thoughtcrime is here…

  9. It’s a nice concept for style and sensibility. As for the wisdom of risking the consequences? Free Speech and expression is currently sort of dead in many places. Airports being an example. So using such a metal “Art plate” is sadly not too safe or smart. As the risk of using such a plate is? Becoming a*dead* proponent of free speech. Yes- it’s come to America now being a land where free speech thru art risks summary execution. Ask Star Simpson for details ok?

  10. To all the people in these comments who said they’d never do this because they’d be “strip searched,” “lose” their luggage, be “tazered,” “need a lawyer,” “struck” and to all the people who agree with those sentiments (hell, one of you even thinks you are at risk by posting a comment here):

    Really? We’re to the point where putting a metal stencil message in your luggage would get you physically assaulted or have you personal belongings taken from you?! Really? Do you really, really believe that?

    How is having a metal stencil with a message on it breaking any crimes, and how is it not protected by multiple amendments in the Bill of Rights?

    If you agree with me, but you still think you’re going to be assaulted or have your property taken or be arrested if you fly with this in your luggage…

    Well, then frankly, if you don’t fly with one of these in your bag every single time you fly then you are just part of the problem and deserve every boot stomping you get when the rest of your rights are taken away.*

    *Ok, you could fight the power some other way. But if you do nothing, you suck.

  11. The U.S. flag one would have fun consequences, though. Get “pulled over”, then make a fuss about being detained for an American Flag to right-wing media outlets the day after.

    Stand back and watch heads explode as everyone tries to be more-patriotic-than-thou.

    (Though come to think of it, even better would be a pity ribbon and something like “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS”)

  12. I once flew with a baby-sized (fake but realistic looking) skeleton in my backpack. Much to my surprise, security didn’t bat an eye as it went through the x-ray machine.

  13. There is a difference between fighting for civil liberties and just being a jackass.

    Find the proper forum for your statement, rather than annoying the hell out of the people behind you.

    That’s not to say that being a complete jackass and sliding one that says “I EAT POO” into your friend’s suitcase wouldn’t be totally awesome.

  14. i’d rather stick it inside the lining of the suitcase or briefcase of someone i really didn’t like. i can see the entertainment value there, as long as i didn’t get caught for putting it there…

  15. that design sucks. you can customize every piece of your luggage for like 10 bucks and an evening at home with an X-acto.
    don’t bother cutting up a sheet of metal, just cut the image into a sheet of Mylar. Search online for “metalized PET film scraps.”
    With Mylar the image will show up as a ghost without obstructing the view of the items. this way you get to be clever without the cavity search

  16. #14 SNACKCAKE, it’s safe to discuss because it’s already published on halfbakery, yay.

    I was tempted too, but never had the guts. Back in 1980 my own evil plan was to print some actual full-size x-rays of various objects, but using radiopaque ink. Litharge white, or make your own pigment from medical barium sulfate powder. X-ray machines probably can’t distinguish between a real object and an x-ray photograph of the same object. And if the ink is white on white paper, humans can’t see the photo. (Print something over the white ink to hide it even better.

    It doesn’t need to be guns and bombs. It could be a human head with a bunch of circuit boards in the skull cavity. But a paperback mystery novel with a handful of invisible 9mm cartridges printed into the cover… would have interesting effects.

    Also, are airport x-ray machines real-time? For MOTORIZED x-ray animation displays? How about a rotating x-ray hypno disk.

  17. Ahhh, this reminds me of the time I brought my EFF Bill of Rights – Security Edition. It’s a metal plate that you can put on your person.
    I put it in my breast pocket and tried to go through the metal detector. I failed and they wanded me, took my passport and my Bill of Rights. I said to look at Amendment 4 “It’s a good one”. They gave it back and sent me on my way. I am probably in some database now… :D

  18. @14 – If you really want to have some fun, discreetly snap a picture of the person viewing x-ray monitor (a closeup would be ideal, if possible), and go off and print it on your handy portable printer using this “radiopaque ink” of which you speak. Now drop the picture into your carry-on, run it through security and enjoy!

  19. assuming a miracle happens and McCain doesn’t steal the`election like Bush did. Have you given thought on how to dismantle the security gestapo?

  20. The complete fear of taking perfecting legal (and in my opinion reasonable) actions by most people and expressed in many comments here like carrying these plates is the reason things will never change.

    This is a perfect way to further expose and hopefully push action on the TSA. If you find yourself held up because someone in front of you in line gets harassed for having one of these you should fucking applaud them.

    That said, I think these would pass without comment at most screenings if only because the sort of agent that tends to abuse their power will look for easier targets (like flustered mothers with an ounce to much breast milk in their baby cup or handicapped passengers who need their sterile gear unmolested) and carrying one of these screams I am here prepared for a fight and to make you look bad

  21. #21, that’s a laudable point of view. But let me posit another, less laudable but equally plausible one.

    I have a relatively low level of income in comparison to my mortgage etc., and I have a wife and a child who would struggle to make ends meet without me. My priority is to look after them.

    It’s easy to assert than people take an idealistic stance. It’s even, as I say, somewhat laudable. But life is often not that simple.

  22. I used to be a road warrior. I once printed out a copy of the US 4th Amendment and put it in my checked bag, on top of my clothes. When I got my bag back after the flight, there was a ‘this bag was opened and inspected by the TSA’ notice taped to it, along with a hand-written scrawl that say “Thanks for being anti-American.”

    I had been unaware, up to that point, that the Constitution was anti-American. Imagine my surprise.

  23. To all who take the stance that this will somehow change something – I wish to point out that shooting a cop never brought down a police state.

    Messing with underlings only provokes them to mess with you.

    If you think that you will make a scene and therefore a point, you seem to miss the whole “surround and remove” tactic that is employed by the TSA.

    If you want to fight, you will be bum-rushed out of sight into a small room where you may fight until you lose interest or provoke a more severe response from “The Man.”

  24. #40:

    No, better my child grow up with me to try and protect her than I make a target for myself in a series of probably futile, if ethically correct and laudable, gestures.

    If I thought I had the magic secret of making politicians behave like civilized beings, I might be tempted to stick my neck out a bit.

  25. @10: That is pure genius. Something completely inexplicable, but with both an air of legitimacy, and the comforting word “safe”.

  26. Hi Shadowfirebird,

    Yeah. I know idealism clashes with realism, so I put that asterisk there at the end to say some people are going to choose to fight this some other way.

    In a hypothetical society headed straight for fascism… if you don’t draw any line in the sand, then they’ll take you away from your family eventually anyway now won’t they?

    I just think having a wife and kids to worry about changes where you draw that line in the sand. And I think that’s a human reality.

    We don’t have a foreign king and military imposing taxes on us without representation right now like we did 300 years ago. But back then there were plenty of fathers with wives and children to worry about who realized if they didn’t fight the British then they weren’t looking after their families at all.

    If we don’t fight bad policy peacefully early on, then are we headed towards a breaking point where it gets so bad that people take up arms?

  27. Hi XOPL:

    “I just think having a wife and kids to worry about changes where you draw that line in the sand. And I think that’s a human reality.”

    Yep. That describes my mindset perfectly.

    “If we don’t fight bad policy peacefully early on, then are we headed towards a breaking point where it gets so bad that people take up arms?”

    I’ve yet to hear a proposal for action that would have the desired effect of stopping those in authority from abusing that authority. Even taking up arms won’t do that; it’ll just replace one authority with another. Feel free to call me cynical.

    And I *am* British ::grin::. Same problem, different government…

  28. No one has to take up arms. If everyone who has a mortgage stopped making payments on it – today – we’d have the government’s full attention and could sit down and discuss anything we liked with them.

  29. Hi Wigwam Jones,

    If you could get a million people to agree to any form of civil disobedience they could sit down with the government and have a nice discussion.

    But everybody is too afraid to count on those other 999,999 people.

    Or there aren’t a million people who agree on anything.

    Or there are 300 million people who agree on a LOT of things and partisanship screws up any hope of unity towards GOOD change.

  30. You don’t even need a million people to stop paying their mortgages – a half-million taking all of their money out of any bank accounts or money market accounts would probably be enough.

    then again, a general wildcat strike is highly underrated, and what better time than now when all sorts of strange political bedfellows have woken up next to each other and are against the blatant power grab by plutocrats?

  31. There was a time when you could walk your loved ones all the way to the gate and wave goodbye as you watched their airplane slowly pull away from the jetway. You multiply all those moments by all the families and friends who fly and you end up with a loss of experience that soon noone will even know existed to come up with the feeling of missing it.

    All this because some religious zealots ruined the party for us.

  32. @39 Pictures or it didn’t happen – seriously, as far as I am concerned that note is worth much more than its weight in gold if it exists

  33. Which religious zealots are you speaking of, Lucifer? The ones on the domestic planes on 9/11 or the ones waging two wars on some countries far, far away from the USA?

  34. Cleanly stencil “Laptop Scratch Protective Cover ®” or “Laptop Pro-tech-tor ®” or other such nonsense in one corner and tell the goon “I bought it to protect my expensive laptop after some baggage handler broke my last one.” Go on to say “I love the American Flag, don’t you?”

  35. The points of what we have lost are more tragic than anything else I could say. Music appropriate to this thread might be “Just a Song before I Go”

  36. Wonder how hard it would be to make a backpack or messenger bag with the stencil (made to order, call now!) already woven in place using some kinda ruggedized radiopaque thread.

    Other possible images for these stencils (loved those suggested so far): peace sign, smiley face, i c u 2, : – P, “I feel much safer now”, that corporate U.S. flag from Adbusters:, and “go ahead, irradiate this for a few more minutes, then I won’t have to wash the laundry in this bag; no really, it’s ok, I’ll wait”.

  37. My father did this years ago. While living in Hawaii, he cut up an old lead apron and spelled the work ALOHA in his carry-on bag. After several flights he stopped carrying the extra weight because not a single screener noticed.

  38. #56 – it takes two to tango.
    In the end, the zealots on both sides desperately need one another to put faces on the ideas they hate so much.

  39. stencil jesus and or virgin mary, then when security asks what’s in the bag just say “toast”.

  40. Are you people NUTS???

    These are clearly deadly weapons. Look at those edges. These plates look heavy. Do you not care about America AT ALL?

  41. I wonder if it would do any good to have the text from the front of my passport re-produced on the plate:

    “Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.”

    Probably not. The text in the Passport doesn’t make that happen.

  42. fail. no one who travels would want to tote a hunk of metal around just to kid with the gestapo tsa.

  43. XOPL…

    You need to qualify your statement ;-)

    We don’t have a foreign king (Parliament) and military imposing taxes (contribution for colonial defences, but *not* the huge cost of defending against the French) on us without representation (for land-owning, whites, Protestants) right now like we did 300 years ago.

    Or are you suggesting that the goal of the Patriots/insurgents was universal suffrage?

  44. #54 LUCIFER

    You absolutely can walk with your significant other to the gate through security. The person at the ticket counter can print you an escort boarding pass.

    I’ve done it. My girlfriend was going on a business trip, so I took her to the airport. At the ticket counter the agent informed her that the flight was delayed, saw me standing there obviously not flying, and offered to print me out an escort pass to get through security, and even suggested good bars to hit up in the terminal while she waited.

    Maybe the terrorists didn’t win.

  45. Beware the trap of badgering people who don’t like the process anymore than you do. Maybe the best ally to an act of resistance (or irreverence) to TSA regulations are the TSA employees themselves?

    How about messages such as:
    “I don’t blame you.”, “I sympathize with your predicament.”, “For a better job visit:”, “Speak out for a better system.”, etc.

    We can work on changing the system from the outside, they can work on changing it from the inside.

  46. @70

    They aren’t going to change anything from the inside. I know two supervisors quite well (since before they got the jobs) who are frustrated enough to be desperately seeking new jobs outside the TSA. A large part of their desire to get out comes from having realized the only positive thing within their power is to not be assholes to the people they deal with and try and get those below them to do the same. By design, anyone low enough on the hierarchy that the average traveler could come into contact with them cannot have any real power outside of ruining / saving that individual traveler’s day.

  47. As funny and cool a statement as these make in a rebellious artistic sense, they’re not very effective as a political tool at all. The only people that will see them at the airport aren’t the people in a position to fix the system’s problem. The guy that runs your bag through the x-ray is just another working-class guy like you. You’re just making his day a little crappier.

    He’s not going to see the plate and say “OMG, my eyes are open now! I’m a cog in a wheel that is making air travel more hassle for no added security! I’m a part of transportation safety theatre! I’m just helping erode the rights of citizens! How could I not have noticed this before! I’m going to march right to my supervisor and to the Department of Homeland Security, to the Supreme Court if I have to, and fight for a fair, effective, and efficient system!”

    Wasting your money on buying these plates or your time on making something like that of your own is pointless. You’d be better off spending your time and money doing something that might possibly remotely be helpful like writing your congressman or raising awareness on the internet of the abuses or something, anything that might actually be an agent of change. The plates don’t do anything but amuse yourself. If you’re trying to generate a real policy change, there are tons of better ways to do it. If you’re just trying to give yourself a little entertainment, there’s better ways to do that,too.

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