Safety in High Energy Physics and US Visitor paperwork

The NYT article on US immigration and ESTA makes me think that I should publish the safety lecture from the November 2010 Bristol Hadoop workshop, which was hosted by Bristol University Physics Dept. All signs in the slides are from their physics building, except for the last slide.

The last form is genuine it's hosted on the state department as the 1405-0134 form, I've had to fill it in a couple of times. Things I like about it
  • I can cross more countries on a one day alpine bike ride than there is room for in the "countries you have visited" section. 
  • Giving to a charity is clearly something they don't expect people to do much of -again, space for two or three, and no time limit on how far back you must list your donations.
  • In places like Boise, Idaho, having firearms training is something they ought to give visitors, not ask if they have it.
Because form explicitly says "nuclear experience", the HEP folk can get away with saying no. Saying you work with antimatter or neutron beams is not the thing you want to do at an immigration border.

While taking the on-site photos I got cornered by the University site security people for taking pictures with an SLR as it is "what the police warned them about". I didn't point out to them that if I wanted to take photos discreetly I'd use a camera phone or my HD-resolution cycle helmet cam on the bike helmet I'd carry nonchalantly under one arm -as that would only make them think I was planning something. Better to stick to the idea that enemies of the state use SLRs -so anyone with an SLR is potentially an enemy. Anyway, I didn't argue, just sat there, let them look at the photos while verifying that I was visiting the physics dept. At some point the chief minion started talking about deleting one of the paper sign listing how many gigabequerels they had. Ignoring the fact that such info is available online, having that photo deleted would have wasted 15 minutes of my life once I got back home and undeleted it. At least they didn't ask to look at the laptop, as that would have created conflict.

Returning to ESTA, here's something funny about it. There is no online way to see if it expires. Apparently you get a renewal email, but I've never seen one, and last november I tried to see if mine was still valid before flew to the US. I didn't get a reply until after I'd flown out:

Dear Stephen,
I am sorry we were not able to respond to your question sooner. Hopefully you did not have any problems traveling to the US, but please write back if you still need help.

That is -we hope it hadn't expired yet because you'd have been stuffed if it had.

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