Episode 133: Antacid Jail Break

Air Date: December 2, 2009

It is possible to bust out of a jail cell by trapping the gas released from a large stockpile of antacid tablets and water.

busted

Adam and Jamie began with small scale tests to measure the volume of gas created by antacid tablets and the pressure that the gas would exert in a confined space. They were able to observe pressures of 20-40 psi and explained that even though that may not seem like a lot, it could create a tremendous force when distributed over a large surface. For the full scale test, the MythBusters built a mock prison cell using cinder blocks and mortar. The roof was concrete with steel rebar and the door was 1.25 inch bullet-resistant, transparent plastic. Adam and Jamie used plastic sheets and tape to create a bubble that would trap in the carbon dioxide gas from the antacid reaction. They used 22,000 antacid tablets (calculated as 2 tablets per meal over 10 years) and a standard water faucet. They soon released that their plastic bubble had a leak and the pressure inside the cell was not increasing. They decided to try one more time and upped the ante by using the equivalent of 100,000 antacid tablets of raw chemicals. They also installed a large water pipe in the ceiling to speed up the reaction. This time, the pressure in the cell rose to about 4 psi and the cell door was deformed enough by the pressure that a large leak opened. Although this result was somewhat promising, there was also the issue of whether this situation would be survivable. Adam explained that the prisoner would likely suffocate if inside the plastic bubble or be crushed by the pressure if outside the plastic bubble, so the myth was declared busted.

It is possible to smuggle contraband across borders by driving at night, at speed, without headlights.

busted

Grant, Tori, and Jessi went to an indoor go-kart course to see if they could drive in the dark. They added some signs and obstacles to better simulate a real road. Each of them first drove the course with their headlights on to get a control time. Next, they each attempted to drive the course in darkness. They sat in the dark for 20 minutes beforehand to let their eyes adjust. The results were not good: Grant went the wrong way, Jessi crashed, and Tori finished but had to drive extremely slowly. Tori also tried driving the course while wearing night-vision goggles. Although he could drive fairly well, his lack of peripheral vision and depth of field allowed him to be caught by the police (played by Jessi).

35 Comments

  1. Ian Mitchell says:

    Whoa, I’ve been watching Mythbusters for YEARS and I’ve never seen you guys blow it as badly as you did in Smuggle with no headlights experiment. For one thing the smuggler WOULD know the route. For another thing it would be OUTDOORS and even in the darkest of night there would be some light. Thirdly, once the cops are after you the cover is BLOWN, the test is irrelevant. Please run an OUTDOOR test on a KNOWN route with a booth with it’s lights on. I don’t think a guard in a lighted booth would be able to see a car speed by. Although the guard may have to be listening to music, or the car may need to be electric due to noise. Also there may be some other type of night vision device that WOULD give depth perception.

  2. qwertyuiop says:

    Maybe they don’t wanna tell people how to break the law.

    • Robin says:

      So why mention the myth at all then? Anyway, whether it can be done by the Mythbusters or not isn’t going to stop idiots from breaking the law.

  3. AySz88 says:

    If it were a known route, the police could just stake it out after the first time, and then you can’t use it anymore (or get caught trying).

  4. Adam says:

    So, wait, the hundreds of soldiers that use night vision while driving and flying during covert ops can’t possibly drive a car (which would most likely be down a straight stretch of road for the most part) at speed? Just because they don’t have the skills required doesn’t mean other people who are trained cannot.

    The real reason they don’t run drugs like this is because roads are too easy to get caught. They go by water or air. Plus, how suspicious do you look driving with your lights off wearing night vision goggles?

  5. robert greenwell says:

    how did he or she get all of the plastic and why would the pressure not go above a certian amount i think it is because the larger the container the more pressure it takes to make the same as the small scale but how would i know i am only 14

  6. nick says:

    1st the smuggler wouldnt have to drive w/ his lights off for that long of a distance. as i recall the myth was just to get across a check point. also many people do this to evade police.as thier being chased they turn off thier lights and make a quick turn onto another road, its called pullig a hudini.uve gotta have some what of a lead on the cops obviously but its a known method.

  7. k dog says:

    i wish i could watch

  8. Ruth King says:

    Concerning “starve a fever, stuff a cold” It was determined this is a myth. However, nothing was mentioned about the enzymes in the stomach that don’t function well if too high of a temperature is there. Thus causing vomiting and therefore, increased dehydration, which during a fever is a definite health consideration. Would really like to know about that aspect.

  9. K.S says:

    Hey,

    just finished watching the episode and i think the mistake in the antacid jailbreak was the fact that there was already to much room in the plastic bubble, for psi to accumulate there has to be pressure to begin with like when adam was showing how he could lift 125 lbs by blowing, he used a flattened area which could expand.

    Where as the bubble the mythbusters used in the cell was already expanded by being taped to the wall.

    i would like to see this myth be done again but this time with out taping the bubble just laying it outand letting the antacid and the CO2 expand through it to see the results.

    • ed says:

      I believe the experiment was flawed.
      Pumping water into a sealed room / bag / container of any kind will cause it to blow. The use of anticid tablets did very little. please re visit this but this time do not pump in water from outside. instead have the water already in the room say in a bathtub and then just drop into this the 20 K or so tablets….only then will you be measuring the gas pressure.

  10. K.S says:

    p.s i know this myth was deemed busted because the person would most likely not be able to survive but i would still like to see if the jail cell would bust if done properly

  11. Darin says:

    The military routinely has pilots and drivers drive at night with no lights using night vision.
    The difference is that the mil-spec NVGs have two lenses, one for each eye. It’s really not complicated.

    Also, as another poster pointed out, the route would probably be known to the smugglers.

  12. Brian says:

    first of all they are inside. They cant walk around in the dark in there. Outdoors you have moonlight. They claim they used cold snowy nights in the myth. In canada some nights you can see a mile with no lights just from the moonlight reflecting off the snow.

  13. Logak says:

    K.S.: What? The amount of air already in the plastic bubble if ANYTHING should make it easier. Pressure is the result of gases pushing on the walls of the bubble – any gas will do, so the air already inside would only add to the effect of the antacids.

    The reason for the low PSI was size – a larger area means more square inches, requiring more pounds to reach a certain level per square inch. Adam’s little breath experiment used a far smaller bubble, which meant less surface area and therefore less pressure needed to reach a high PSI.

  14. Sean says:

    I’m a Border Patrol Agent. Smugglers drive with their lights off all the time. I just saw this episode and I was shocked they didn’t do any research to support the claim that they drive lights-out. By the way, they smuggle marijuana by the ton in these lights-out vehicles, they disable the brake lights with switches so they can stop the vehicle without illuminating the rear lights, and they are very dangerous.

  15. J.B says:

    Just wondering about the jail break myth, would it be possible to the earth quake device to resonate you way out of prison. For example by breaking the bars?

  16. Russ says:

    I’m behind this snow concept in regards to the no headlight segment. Snow up north puts off a good deal of light in the evenings and accents the roads/trails quite well.

  17. bifimera says:

    it seems like u people watch the show just to prove ur smarter than them.

  18. Gregor says:

    As far as I know, the driving with no headlights segment is the first time Mythbusters have been totally 100% wrong.
    Thousands of soldiers drive with NV, and border patrol agents have seen it themselves. Very poor job mythbusters.

    • miranda says:

      well not all people r good at driving in the dark

      • miranda says:

        and the sodiers wear night vision goggles

      • sss says:

        well if you suck at night driving, you are not suited for the job (i.e. smuggling). I, myself, have seen driving at night by just moonlight.

  19. miranda says:

    omg so freakin awesome how how it took that many tablets and how it really did explode yall r so awesome

  20. Anne says:

    As a kid my buddies and I used to ride our ATVs with no lights all the time. Moonlight can quite effectively illuminate a road or path. Even without knowing the terrain, we had no difficulty navigating. As for why we did such an incredibly dangerous and stupid thing–it was usually to evade the local security patrol, and we were successful about 95% of the time.

    Please revisit this myth!

  21. david r. blain says:

    what a cool bust!

  22. John says:

    These guys clearly don’t know their pressure units. 4 PSI would not crush a person…not even close. 4 PSI above atmosphere (~14PSI) is the equivalent of being 3m under water; scuba Divers with basic training are cleared for 33m, or 11 times the crush depth of a body according to Adam

  23. BSoMeter says:

    I don’t think the prisoner would have filled his entire cell, instead just fill in a hole created and then you could apply the smaller test and see that it is very doable.

  24. Hal says:

    Your antacid gas release test was not accurate since you used water in which carbon dioxide would easily dissolve forming carbonic acid. Should’ve used oil – but at least you got it right that it’s impossible to do it practically.

  25. Drew says:

    Ok, so 2 things.

    1) For everyone who says that you can see with moonlight and snow you are right. That being said, not every night has a bright moon, and that was one of the conditions of the myth. Done.

    2) Agree completely about water pressure from the outside pump having a large effect on the total pressure in the bag… oh well.

  26. Robert says:

    Does anyone know where i can get the soundtrack played when they wait for the prison cell to blow up in the last attempt? Beautiful music!

  27. Jennifer says:

    I believe that if I were running things across the border at night I would:

    1. Be intimately familiar with the route(s) and any alternative routes that may be required in case of an emergency situation

    2. have my eyes acclimated to night vision (wear eye coverings/protection until dark). It worked for pirates…

    3. take the route with lights on to learn the route for weeeeeks without contraband in the car before actually going for the real thing. This would allow you to learn where officers might stake out and what to expect.

    4. carry dark sunglasses or something of the like that can be quickly applied to keep from being blinded by oncoming traffic.

    By not allowing the drivers to be familiar with the route, it creates a big flaw in the testing. I think they should retest this myth using a more common sense approach.

  28. Willy says:

    Two things, when smuggling drugs with lights out. The point of doing this is to advoid detection by air. Offten times not even on a road. Also some state’s figure they can save money by having one unit by air clocking speeders instead of many highway traffic control cops. Still not trying to speed just advoid detection. Second; cell brake guy, in perisuried bubble with a hose through the u trap of toilet to breath oh wait the pressure would flush the toilet. I guess you could make a show where 3 dorky chicks and one hot guy tried to solve this problem. Or you could hire me, or use a wet rag stuffed in u trap with hose fed between the two.

  29. Willy says:

    Bifimera no people tell me I’m smart and they ask me alot of questions, no watching Necessary. Obviously I like watching intelligent sexy redheads named Kari.

  30. Willy says:

    I just found out I’m not watching Mythbusters anymore.

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