THOSE PESKY MYLAR STRIPS

by Dave Mathews

I cannot remember the number of times I have had to cool my friends emotions when they bring up the plastic anti-counterfeiting strips placed within US $20 bills in the early 1990's. Now it seems most all of our major denominations have these barely visible strips of fine mylar plastic sandwiched between two layers of US regulation currency paper.

What gets most people in an uproar is the technologically unfeasible idea of the government being able to know how much money is in their wallets. My fear is that they watch the weather channel too frequently as they believe satellites are able to monitor their money far in the sky.

With technology comes paranoia, and with time comes more technology, which gives us the fact that the government can now detect large amounts of money right in our wallets. This technology is much closer to home than the birds orbiting us at 22,300 miles however, so don't convert your cash to gold bouillon just yet.

It seems that with a million volt power supply and some tuned gamma rays your money can now be managed by Uncle Sam himself! The first problem is the million volt power supply. These are getting smaller however, and now take up the same space as a college style refrigerator.

No, AT&T is not bringing this to you, but Triumf Laboratories in Vancouver, BC is.

Gamma rays are produced by using a particle accelerator to fire protons at a carbon target. These rays pass though just about everything but can be tuned to detect the mylar strips in bills, or the high levels of nitrogen present in drugs and explosives.

The range on these gamma rays is quite close however, so once the devices finally hit the streets they will be in the form of airport x-ray machines. Don't expect briefcase carrying feds to walk beside you with your US $20's and $100's registering on their counters however. These devices will look for large concentrations of the plastic strips leaving the country, as it is illegal to transfer more than 10,000 dollars out of the United States without notifying the government of your actions.

Most of you red blooded, gun yielding citizens of this fine land will have nothing to worry about, as your paltry sums of cash will go undetected by the new airport machines. Those of you laundering cash or trafficking drugs however may want to avoid airports.

So if you're OJ getting ready to leave the country, better not bring all that cash, but convert it to a VISA debit card instead. Once you get to Barcelona you can exchange your "plastic" cash to Spanish Peseta (EPT) without fear of getting nabbed in customs by the gamma gun.

Copyright 1997 Dave Mathews. All rights reserved.

2600 Magazine, Volume 14, Number 2, Summer 1997