Rear action

Laughter is a natural human response when the going gets weird.

It may even do some good, restoring some emotional balance and a sense of proportion.

So perhaps we can be excused for not retaining our traditional sober expressions as we discuss the ramifications of the death of Arab terrorist Abdullah Hassan Tali' al-Asiri in Saudi Arabia last month.

Suicide bomber al-Asiri reportedly walked past palace checkpoints with a small bomb inserted into a body cavity -- a hiding place which screened it from the sensors. He then entered a room where he intended to kill Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

Judging by the al-Qaida video released at a later date, which featured the still-living al-Asiri proudly holding his device before committing the deed, it was about 3 inches long.

Al-Asiri succeeded in getting into the same room with the Saudi prince. The bomb went off.

Does the terrorist's act mean airport travelers will soon have to bend over and submit to proctological searches, just as they now remove their shoes in honor of the failed attempt of would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid, who tried without success to set his explosive-laden sneakers on fire during a transatlantic flight in 2001?

Probably not -- though it might be interesting to see if there is any indignity to which modern Americans would refuse to submit.

In fact, "The force of such an explosion would be in the direction of the easiest exit," explains Paul Worsey, a University of Missouri science and technology researcher and inventor of explosives. "It sounds almost like drunk logic, where an idea sounds great until the next morning and you're sober, going, 'Noooo, that won't work.' ... The rest of the body would work like a sandbag against the blast, though it would be a mess. Unless you're actually hugging somebody, nobody's going to get badly hurt."

Except the bomber.

In this case, pretty much all that happened is that the late Mr. al-Asiri, um ... blew his butt off.

Sandy Straus of the Florida-based Explosives Academy theorizes today's checkpoints may need radical revamping to catch the butt-bombers of tomorrow.

But Lewis Page, a science writer for the British online journal The Register, called for calm.

"With the deceased buttock-bomb operative the only casualty" in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Page told Internet readers this was "nothing to get anyone's bowels in an uproar. Move along: nothing you even want to see here."