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Hello:

My dad has had a broken hip which he recuperated from with the basis surgery. Recently he sets off the alarms as he goes out of most every store. His hip surgery was about two years ago and this alarm setting off just started in the last few months. Do you have any ideas why this might be occurring? I would think that if the pins they inserted broke, he would not be walking around.

-- Monica, the net

Yikes. Hope Dad isn't planning any plane trips in the near future. News reports suggest that people smuggling hip replacements and other orthopedic hardware is an increasing problem for the Homeland Security squad at airports. Since they have to investigate every alarm, guards waste time looking for secreted Uzis when the culprit is just a titanium ankle pin. Even the Secretary of Transportation was pantsed at the airport at Washington because of an implant. Staff quack Dr. Doctor doesn't believe Dad's new magnetic attraction is related to any change in his medical situation, unless he's lost a lot of weight since the surgery. The deeper the implant, the less likely it is to set off alarms.

Security gates work by sending out a series of magnetic pulses from one side of the device, with detection circuitry on the other side. If the pulse is interrupted by metal, the detection circuitry figures something is wrong and sets off the alarm. The higher the pulse rate, the more sensitive the device. Dr. Doctor suggests that it's changes in the sensitivity of store alarms that are catching Dad, not changes in his implant. We've snooped around the security alarm biz in the past and found that even industry insiders admit the devices vary in quality and accuracy. It's common for orthopedic surgeons to give their implant patients identity cards to show law enforcement that they're semibionic, not a threat to national security. That won't stop the alarms but it might keep dad out of the slam.

More Alarming News

In response to Monica's story about her electrified father, reader Greg emails:

"I suddenly started tripping alarms at Rite-Aid, Vons, and other stores�. The source was my wallet. [In it] I found a small piece of white plastic with some circuitry on it, like the strip they put on CDs to keep you from stealing them. [Clerks usually desensitize them after you purchase the item], but somehow mine must have gotten reactivated and it started tripping alarms wherever I went."

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