651: Bag Check
Title text: A laptop battery contains roughly the stored energy of a hand grenade, and if shorted it... hey! You can't arrest me if I prove your rules inconsistent!
Cueball argues with a TSA agent at an airport security checkpoint over the TSA policy of prohibiting airline passengers from bringing liquids or gels in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) in their carry on items. To prove his point, Cueball points out that modifying the lithium ion battery in his laptop computer to be an explosive poses a more plausible risk to the aircraft than carrying an innocuous bottle of water. The joke is that now the security team is even MORE worried about him specifically and will take away his laptop and most likely detain him for questioning.
The title text continues Cueball's line of argument, segueing into a protest as the situation escalates to the point of Cueball apparently being placed under arrest. This is, however, a bit of an exaggeration, as for them to place someone under arrest, they need real reason to think that they are going to do something bad, and simply knowing this information is not enough to justify this action.
Interestingly, in 2017 a ban on laptops and other large, battery-equipped devices (but not smartphones) in the cabin was initiated by the United States, and followed by other countries, with the stated aim of lowering the risk of somebody bringing an explosive onto the plane inside it. Granted, this was in response to a Somali incident where a bomber snuck a laptop loaded with actual explosives (not just the batteries) onto a plane, but the similarities are still quite evident.
- [Cueball and Megan are at a security checkpoint in an airport. A guard is holding an open backpack and a bottle of water, and Cueball is arguing with him.]
- Cueball: But if you're worried about bombs, why are you letting me keep my laptop batteries? If I overvolted them and breached the cells, it would make a sizeable explosion.
- Megan: Oh god.
- Cueball: It's okay, dear. In a moment he'll realize I have a good point and return my water.
- The TSA responded to this comic in a blog post and Randall Munroe expounded on his intent in its comments.
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