Gadgets sometimes have alternative uses.
You can hold up a phone at a U2 concert and show that you, too, can create a religious light source.
You can use a hair dryer to bring your iPhone back to life after you've dropped it in the toilet.
However, I have never heard of someone attempting to pass off a golf-ball finder as a bomb detector. There again, I never thought Harvard could beat anyone at basketball.
Excitingly, there is a trial currently in progress in which a British businessman is accused of fooling the military, the police, nay, even governments themselves into buying bomb detectors that were golf-ball finders.
I cannot imagine how the two might have been confused. But the prosecution alleges that 56-year-old Jim McCormick persuaded many important people around the world that these things could spot bombs, ivory, drugs, and even bits of human bodies.
He allegedly claimed they even worked through walls, under water, and even from planes.
More Technically Incorrect
Yet, as the Mirror reports, this so-called Advanced Detection Equipment was allegedly little more than a $20 Titleist-sniffer.
At one point, the prosecution said that McCormick bought 300 golf-ball finders, souped them up a little, and "made them knowing that they were going to be sold as something that it was claimed was simply fantastic."
With perhaps a hint of irony, prosecutor Richard Whittam told the jury: "You may think those claims are incredible."
You might think it incredible that serious organizations paid around $41,000 for each of these things.
You might think it incredible that none of them might have asked themselves that they represented a level of fantasy that Superman himself might question.
The allegation is that McCormick insisted that these devices worked by static electricity.
William Powell, the director of a design consultancy with which McCormick worked, told the court that McCormick had rubbed part of the device on his trousers. This was, allegedly, the means by which the whole thing was made to function.
There was a also a plastic card that went into the device. This, allegedly, had the "magic" in it.
The court was told that when Powell opened the box, he merely found a circuit board that didn't happen to be connected to anything at all.
McCormick has pleaded his innocence in this trial. Still, as the case unfolds, one can only hope to discover how security professionals were fooled into buying the gadgets.
Indeed, the devices were, according to the Daily Mail, used in Iraq, Niger, and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
United Nations security forces in Lebanon also placed themselves in a position to buy, but never consummated.
And to think we laugh when ordinary, harassed people pay $180 for a wooden iPad.