Thursday, November 1, 2012

The MacGyver-like powers of dental floss

In Texas, officials believe a prisoner used floss to cut his way out of his cell, then jumped a fellow inmate and knifed him to death.

In Maryland, Illinois, West Virginia and Wisconsin, inmates collected enough floss to braid it into ropes and escape, or try to, over prison walls.

A group of escaped prisoners on the run in Texas used floss to sew up their gunshot wounds.

And a man in an Illinois jail used floss to stitch together the dummy he left in his bed when he took off.

Experts say floss, or the plastic holder it sometimes comes in, has been used to strangle enemies, to escape, to saw through bars, to pick handcuffs, to make a hand grip on a shank and to hoist contraband from one level of cells to another. ...

An episode of the science TV show "Mythbusters" a few years ago set up an experiment to challenge the floss-as-security-risk theory. The show used a floss-equipped robot to test whether floss — combined with toothpaste to make it more abrasive — could really saw through a bar on a jail cell.

The feat was declared "plausible," given 300 days at eight hours a day — the kind of time that an inmate might have. ...

It was waxed floss that was used in Wisconsin in 1997 by inmates Timothy Dummer and Guy Dunwald. They used ropes of braided floss to get over a wall at the Green Bay Correctional Institution. They were quickly recaptured and had five years added to their sentences.

A television story about the episode said the prisoners had collected 18,975 feet — more than 3½ miles — of dental floss.
--Jim Fitzgerald, Associated Press, on the potent combination of persistence, ingenuity, and dental floss. HT: Marginal Revolution