When Traveling, Beware The Snow Globe Terrorist Menace

Beware the snow globe menace! The TSA has decreed that since they can’t determine how much liquid is in a snow globe, passengers are not allowed to bring them in their carry-on luggage on planes.

They can be purchased at airport gift shops past security checkpoints, or stored in checked baggage, but no snow globes in the airplane’s cabin.

The reason is that the globes contain liquids, and TSA rules say that only liquids, gels or aerosols in containers of three ounces or less are allowed through security in carry-on bags.

The containers must fit into a quart-sized zip-top plastic bag, one bag per passenger, to limit the total volume of liquid and lessen the threat of someone using the contents as explosives.

Just contemplate the ingenuity required to make an explosive device out of a small snow globe.

Snow globes? TSA will likely just say ‘no’ [Seattle Times] (via boingboing – Thanks, John!)

(Photo: Noël Zia Lee)


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  1. wcnghj says:

    Well, if they measured the globe, accounted for displacement of water of what is inside…. but they wouldn’t know if it was water or not.

    • Shoelace says:

      @wcnghj: Or if the gas inside is air. I’m no chemist, but I know there are substances that react violently if exposed to air. Glowglobes have been known to break.

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @wcnghj: at the beginning of september, i was flying back home, and decided to push TSA and bring a few water bottles with me. from what i could tell on the TSA website, i was considered a special case due to type I diabetes. i brought 2 sealed bottles and a nalgene – while she was standing there, after she dipped her strip into my water bottle, i decided to take a drink – she told me that i couldn’t do that until after she had confirmed that the substance was water.

      let me recap – *I* drank liquid from MY water bottle that *I* filled, and SHE viewed it as a security concern.
      now, i am not an explosives expert (or even a high school chemistry teacher), but are there any combustible or incendiary liquids that are safe for human consumption?

      • BBF_BBF says:

        @gStein_has joined the star bandwagon: because if you were a suicide bomber:
        a) you wouldn’t care if the liquid were poisonous because you were already prepared to die.
        b) if the liquid was an explosive, they wouldn’t want you to kill yourself before you could be interrogated and brought to trial.

        The TSA always looks at from the point of a terrorist, not from the point of view of somebody who’s just carrying what they need. Which unfortunately is why 99.99999999% of the people out there have to live with stupid policies like this that purport to protect us.

  2. Shivver says:

    This has always been the policy in the 2.5 years I’ve been with TSA. Liquid is liquid whether it’s in a bottle or a glass enclosure with a miniature figurine inside.

    Don’t get me wrong: the liquid policy is downright stupid and does nothing to solve the problem of multiple terrorists bringing in mini bottle of liquid explosives and mixing them in a big bottle in the departure area. But this rule has been on the books for over three years. If you can’t be bothered to take the 30 seconds to go the tsa.gov before you fly and take even a cursory glance at the rules, please don’t fly.

    And if you do, don’t be a dick to the TSO who makes 30k a year when he has to take your bottled water. He doesn’t make the rules and most likely realizes how stupid some of them are. The only thing your attitude accomplishes is ruining the chance that you’ll catch the TSO in a good mood and he’ll let you keep your crap.

    • What The Geek says:

      @Shivver: “The only thing your attitude accomplishes is ruining the chance that you’ll catch the TSO in a good mood and he’ll let you keep your crap.”

      That right there is why no one likes TSA agents. If the rules dictate something be taken from me, then apologize for the inconvenience, and take it. If the rules allow me to have something, then allow me to pass through the checkpoint with it. Unfortunately, whether or not the rules get followed is directly related to the mood of any given TSA agents. If the agent is having a good day, and they’re all smiles and handshakes, then perhaps things that shouldn’t get through a checkpoint get a pass. I’ve heard enough stories of guns and knives making it through. If the agent is having a bad day, a passenger may be detained for no other reason than failing to say “please”. People get physically molested, verbally abused, separated from their children so that the child may be searched (you know, in case that baby is actually a baby bomb), or otherwise humiliated for no good reason other than the mood of the officer in question.

      I won’t argue that TSA agents don’t make enough, however, if you can’t handle working with the public in a professional manner, then consider a career change. If my attitude can cause you to break the rules to the extent that TSA agents so often break them, that is to say to the extent that my civil rights are violated, you don’t deserve the job, nor the measly 30K that goes along with it.

      • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

        @What The Geek: What rules? Whatever shit you decide to make up that day?
        The TSA won’t post their own regulations and rules to begin with.
        Have you heard “Am I legally required to answer this question?”

    • lmarconi says:

      @Shivver: I don’t know why it should be the fault of citizens that TSA policy is security theater. If you recognize that the policy of your company or in this case agency is inherently stupid, don’t be a dick and expect consumers to quietly and blindly put up with it. I’m not advocating rudeness to TSO agents, but I do think people who politely argue over these useless stupid policies are right to do so.

      • wrjohnston91283 says:


        but I do think people who politely argue over these useless stupid policies are right to do so.

        You’re arguing with the wrong people – frontline TSA employee’s aren’t going to say “hey, you’re right” and change the rules.”

        write to your congressional delegation and tell them it’s a lousy rule.

        • lmarconi says:

          @wrjohnston91283: The writer was suggesting that TSA agents decisions can be arbitrarily decided by their mood at the time and that consumers should expect this and adapt to it. If true, that does not only reflect the idiocy of the policy, but it also reflects the competence of the agents.

    • joshuadavis says:

      @Shivver: My problem with TSA is at certain airports they tend to be very rude. If I do something wrong (I have a security check point at work, so I usually get everything right), then fine, I’ll back up and undo the problem.

    • H3ion says:

      @Shivver: Does TSA pay any attention to its own employees? If a majority of TSA employees tell management that a particular policy is counter-productive, will management listen?

      • Shivver says:

        @H3ion: No, management is pretty detached from what actually goes on down in the screening checkpoint. If they consulted the officers, half of the changes that have gone on in my airport in the past year would have never happened.

        @What The Geek: TSA policy does give the frontline TSO some latitude to make decisions, especially involving liquids. That doesn’t mean that anyone is given a free pass. There are testing methods to make sure that a liquid won’t present a threat. So in that sense no rules are actually being broken. It’s comparable to a police officer letting you off with a warning instead of writing a speeding ticket. If you mouth off to a cop, you’re going to get the ticket 10 out of 10 times. If you treat him like an actual human being, he might just cut you a break.

        That being said, that has nothing at all to do with guns and knives and other dangerous objects getting through the checkpoint. That’s simple human error that can and does occur at any job. Ideally we would catch 100% of everything people try to bring through. Realistically, we do the best we can given the circumstances.

        As far as your civil liberties go, how exactly are they being violated? There is no right to fly, the same way there is no right to drive a car. If you want to fly, you have to abide by a certain set of rules. If you don’t like those rules, Amtrak and Greyhound will always be available to serve your needs. No one is forcing you to go through the screening process. Technically, we can’t even compel you to give anything up. Everything we take is considered a voluntary surrender, with the caveat being that you don’t get past the checkpoint without giving it up.

        @BabyFirefly: I don’t love my job, but I definitely don’t hate it. And I don’t think I put anyone through any suffering. My point was simply that, at least at my airport, the security process is as easy or hard as you make it. If you know what you’re doing, the process goes smoothly. If you don’t sometimes it hits some snags, which are only compounded by the ignorance of the passenger. Like I said, the frontline TSO is given some discretion in certain matters. You’d be crazy to expect me to exercise my discretion in your favor if you treat me like dirt.

        • What The Geek says:

          @Shivver: So what you’re saying is that if a government run entity such as the TSA decides to… oh, I don’t know… detain someone for no good reason, or take someone’s child away off into another room for screening without their permission, they’re justified in doing so because the passenger could have taken a train instead? You can just do what you feel like ’cause hey, I always had the option to take a bus?

          Airlines are privately run companies. If they kick me off of a flight because I’m breaking some code of conduct, my civil liberties aren’t violated – a private entity has ejected me from a flight because I failed to meet my end of the service agreement – end of story. If a TSA agent does something wrong, as a government run entity whom I have no direct transaction with, then yes, my civil liberties are violated.

          If a cop pulls you over for speeding, and you’re polite and he’s in a good mood, you might get off with a warning. If you’re rude, and he’s in a bad mood, you will likely get a ticket. If he’s on a power trip, and acting in a completely unprofessional manner, he’ll taser you in the anus.

          If a TSA agent is in a good mood, and you’re polite to them, you keep your tooth paste. If the TSA agent is in a bad mood, and you’re rude to them, you lose your toothpaste. If they’re on a power trip and acting in an unprofessional manner, you’ll be frisked inappropriately, and detained for six hours because they suspect your so called “toothpaste” to be a weapon of mass destruction, and by getting huffy when he took it from you (despite it being only 2 ounces) you snowed signs of suspicious activity, and off to some small room you go to be questioned for the next 72 hours.

          Do you see the differences in the mentioned scenarios for the cop and the TSA agent? There’s a difference between having some wiggle room with the rules, and violating someone’s rights.

        • ben says:

          @Shivver: In what matters are you given discretion?

        • lmarconi says:

          @Shivver: No offense but, you’re full of shit. By giving the frontline some freedom to make decisions that deviate from the posted rules and regulations, life threatening errors can occur. I’m not just talking about guns and knives on planes, I’m speaking of the numerous people who have had difficulties flying with medication (including myself) because some TSO agent decided that the posted rule that liquid medication can be brought on with a doctor’s note can be arbitrarily questioned by them if they don’t understand whatever contraption (in my case an Epi-Pen) you’re trying to bring on the plane. And yes, I’ve been given major crap for that and almost missed a flight, I worry about people who have insulin and other more serious medications to take on. I can deal with an idiotic rule, I can’t deal with one that isn’t clearly and transparently posted and carried out.

    • NancyCpants says:

      @Shivver: I’ll take 30K a year to get fat and do jack squat.

    • Difdi says:

      @Shivver: That is why the TSA needs to be overhauled or abolished right there. You can be 100% within the rules, and just because a TSA agent is having a bad day and decides to be a dick, he or she can detain you, make you miss your flight, insist that perfectly legal objects must be discarded (for example, the TSA agent who ruled that ANY gel, regardless of flammability, regardless of volume (travel size toothpaste, or a 2oz bottle of shampoo, for example), was banned, just because he said so, on a flight my Father took recently), and so on. TSA agents have too much power and too little accountability or oversight.

    • Tallanvor says:


      “The only thing your attitude accomplishes is ruining the chance that you’ll catch the TSO in a good mood and he’ll let you keep your crap.”

      The attitude you show in your comment is a great example of why people hate TSA employees.

    • ktetch says:

      @Shivver: There is a word that is associated with the TSA, and it is ‘Terrorist’

      However, it’s not in the way you like to think.

      Terrorism is defined (in US code no less) “…activities that involve violent… or life-threatening acts… that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State and… …appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion…” 18 U.S.C. §2331

      The TSA intimidates a civilian population with the ‘threat’ of death. That’s over 88 million incidents of terrorism during 2009 just in Atlanta and Chicago.

      Compare that with a total of 3,850 killed in every terrorist related incident involving a US target (be it property or person, although the death total includes the terrorists and non-us casualties as well) since 1994. By comparison, according to FARS ([www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov]) approximately 3100 died every month in traffic accidents last year alone (the lowest for 15 years).

      In the grand scale of things, terrorism is a negligible danger to human life. The WEATHER is twice as lethal. Oh, and if you take the total number of terrorism incidents involving the US over the last 15 years, and count the same number of incidents for the UK, starting on Jan 1st 1994, you come to… February 1994. Got to love the (US funded!) IRA.

      Anyway, Mr TSA man, if you want to prevent terrorism, quit your job. The only kind of terrorism the US has right now, is domestic terrorism.

  3. tripnman says:

    Mommy – why is that man trying to light his snow globe? Doesn’t he know you can just shake it?

  4. El_Red says:

    And also in the news : fruitcake is forbidden. I’m not joking. No, you cannot bring a fruitcake on a plane.

  5. krispykrink says:

    Can they please just get to it and ban all people? Please TSA! You do know that the human body is mostly LIQUID you hypocrites! Just imagine how many problems could be solved if these Nazis stuck with their “liquid is liquid” policy. You can’t be all picky choosy, liquid is liquid no matter what’s holding it.

    • corkdork says:

      @krispykrink: I’ve kind of wondered about that. I mean, if I go through security while I really have to pee, I can guarantee that there’s more than 3 oz of liquid going through security. “Liquid is liquid” is a pretty stupid policy.

      Although, banning human bodies from air travel would have the nice side benefit of severely reducing terrorist attacks on crowded airplanes.

    • ShirtNinja says:

      @krispykrink: You just broke Godwin’s Law . . . For shame . . .

  6. AngryK9 says:

    By 2015 all passengers will be required to fly totally naked.

  7. SubzeroScientist says:

    1. Determine the volume of 3 oz water.

    2. Determine diameter of a sphere with equivalent volume.

    3. ‘Snow globes over [X dimension] are not prohibited in the cabin. All others must fit into your one quart plastic bag. Happy holidays.’

    • sporks says:

      @SubzeroScientist: Good idea, but snow globes contain decorations that would displace the water in the globe. There’s no real way to accurately measure the water in a snow globe just by looking at the diameter of the sphere unless you want to go with the bare minimum of 2 inches wide that was calculated because the decorations in snow globe A may displace .75 ounces of water and snow globe B’s decorations might displace an ounce of water.
      This could be fixed, if the snow globe manufacturers put how much liquid each contains on the container, but I highly doubt the TSA would care even then.

  8. coan_net says:

    Well it sounds like I’m in the majority, but this sounds like a good policy.

    That is there are clear dangerous liquids that could be smuggled in a snow globe and can be a security threat… and I know the picture above shows a small snow globe, but there are many that are bigger & hold more liquid (Thinking of some limited Disney ones that I have purchased for my mother not too long ago.)

    I feel bad for those flying since I would hate to put something breakable like that in checked luggage, but can understand the risk.

    • RogerTheAlien says:

      @coan_net: Plus, nobody’s thinking about the snowglobes as projectiles? I think a snowglobe could do a LOT more damage when chucked at someone’s noggin than when broken for whatever precious bomb-producing chemical may be inside. I mean, if the 9/11 guys could hijack a plane with a boxcutter, imagine what someone could do with a carry-on full of snowglobes. Oh the humanity!


    • Chocotanya says:

      @coan_net: I agree this does sound like a good policy. When I flew from the USA recently I put the magic-8 ball I had purchased into my checked luggage because I assumed that the liquid would make it prohibited for carryon. I don’t understand why this is being met with the sarcasm and ridicule that it is.

  9. dumblonde says:

    I’m so sick of the TSA. I can’t pass my toiletries and perfumes through security which means I spend money on toiletries I will waste when I go on trips longer than a weekend. But they let a utility knife in my purse slip.

  10. Radi0logy says:

    Obligatory XKCD reference.


  11. headhot says:


    Its not that hard.

  12. PsiCop says:

    By now it should be obvious to one and all that TSA’s rules are just security theater … staged (presumably) for our benefit, to make us “feel” safe. While they’re confiscating those contraband snow-globes from kids who got them as gifts and want to carry them on the plane, they still allow other, more meaningful and more catastrophic, security breaches almost at will and in numerous ways.

    What a joke.

  13. lucky_topher says:

    Using volume of a sphere, and 3oz as the max… 1.8 inches would be the largest diameter to work (not accounting for anything displacing liquid inside)

    Not hard to figure out with high school math.

  14. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    Stupidity like this, and some people still fly when there are other reasonable alternatives*. I just don’t get it.

    *Of course, by reasonable alternatives, I mean that the flight is short enough that it wouldn’t be all that bad (and not more expensive) to drive or take a train.

    • dwasifar says:

      @Ursus Maritimus: Time is money. A wasted day on the road or on a train costs more than just the time; it’s what you could have earned working during that time. Even if you’re on vacation, the equation’s the same; you have to take extra vacation days away from work to allow for train travel, or shorten your vacation, which either way amounts to blowing days, and throwing away time you worked for.

      Plus which, you can’t take a train to Hawaii.

  15. sir_eccles says:

    But what if everyone who went through an airport each brought one snow globe. TSA would have to confiscate each one. In a busy airport you could be easily talking 100,000 snow globes per day. Could be funny for a minute or two.

  16. bitplayer says:

    We have the worst rail system in the developed world soother than driving most of us have no options. We just need more sensible rules regarding this stuff. On /11 those guys didn’t bring anything onto the plane that wasn’t allowed. I think today you get a different outcome if someone tries to hold up a plane. . It makes more sense to me to ban lighters and matches.

  17. roshambo says:

    The whole liquid thing is irrational to begin with. One 6oz. container is bad but 2 3oz. containers are ok. What if I meet up with someone else on the plane that has more oz. and we put it all together. I mean do they really thing terrorists are that dumb? It’s just another poorly thought out policy that only creates hastles normal everyday people. Although that is what the TSA is for right?

  18. Yoko Broke Up The Beatles says:

    I’m thinking the Dept. of Homeland Security ought to make an investigational trip to Corbin Bernsen’s house…


  19. Mage1129 says:

    I am waiting for the day when they will fly two planes to every destination. One plane of passengers and the other plane of liquids and shoes.

  20. blonderengel says:

    Actually the TSA is in violation of several civil liberties, namely under the guise of “do you want to fly today”?

    Since most people do want to fly, and TSA can prevent them from doing so–we have a problem right there: congregation, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable searches etc. etc.

    Yeah, yeah, we are submitting to this voluntarily.


    When I HAVE to travel overseas for business so I can PAY these goons, I am submitting to the full monty.

    It’s good to me.

    Like broccoli.

  21. Jennlee says:

    The whole TSA system just infuriates me. 3 ounces of liquid, or 3.4 ounces (100 ml)? What about liquid volume measurement versus weight measurement. And all these suspicious liquids that are confiscated are just tossed willy nilly into a trash bin in the security area because the TSA knows full well that they aren’t explosives. Beverages sold in the gate area just pass through the metal detectors, generally nothing else. Ice isn’t permitted to be brought through, but Britney Spears recently went through with a Big Gulp cup so new TSA rule that ice if it doesn’t have liquid, is OK (yeah, try that yourself and see how it goes). Snowglobes aren’t permitted, but pies are. What a CF.

  22. TouchMyMonkey says:

    The volume of a sphere is (4*pi*r^3)/3. It ought to be easy to determine approximately how much water a snow globe holds given its radius.

  23. hmk says:

    “They can be purchased at airport gift shops past security checkpoints, or stored in checked baggage, but no snow globes in the airplane’s cabin.”

    But you can purchase bottles of liquid (or fill your own water bottle, as I do) past the checkpoints and bring THOSE onto the plane? Is the real issue here that they are glass? (but some are plastic!)

    TSA is baffling.

    • floraposte says:

      @hmk: That’s analogous to purchasing a snow globe past security checkpoint–in neither case are you bringing the liquid through security. It’s gotten there via its own, undoubtedly supersecret, totally ensafened, way.

  24. NickelMD says:

    I was thinking, its easy to measure the liquid volume of a sphere (4/3*pi^3), then divide by 34cc to get fluid ounces.

    But then I remembered with the TSA we’re talking about neanderthals who make the DMV seem efficient, friendly, and smart.

  25. ChemicallyInert says:

    I love BoingBoing! (Don’t worry, I still love you too Consumerist.)