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Idiot Savant

Well, Boston is all aflutter about Star Simpson, a student at MIT. There's a fad going around the campus now, with students wearing circuit boards and other home-made electronics as ornamentation. Ms. Simpson, trying to be trendy, had her own that she wore attached to her hooded sweatshirt. She also carried some Play-Doh.

That might have been the height of fashion in Cambridge, but it didn't fly too well at Logan Airport.

Logan Airport, you might recall, was the starting point for two of the four airliners hijacked on 9/11, so they're a bit touchy about security. And when a person walks around with an electronic device strapped to their chest and holding handsful of a putty-like substance, they get a bit edgy.

Edgy enough to arrest her at gunpoint -- and ready to shoot if she made the slightest suspicious move.

Let's see... a person wearing an unusual-looking, home-made electronic device, holding stuff that rather resembles plastic explosives, at an airport... yup. a clear-cut case of Fascist Oppression and Iron-Handed Overreaction if ever there was one.

Ms. Simpson is free on bail. She's lucky to still be breathing.


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Comments (77)

According to the "hacker et... (Below threshold)

According to the "hacker ethic," a hack must:
1: be safe
2: not damage anything
3: not damage anyone, either physically, mentally or emotionally
4: be funny, at least to most of the people who experience it

She broke 1 and 4, and maybe 3 as well. Additionally, by getting attention focused on herself, she goes against the tradition of remaining Anonymous.

Conclusion: Not a MIT hack.

For her next stunt, she wil... (Below threshold)

For her next stunt, she will show up at a Nation of Islam rally wearing a white sheet and carrying a watermelon.

"Don't shoot me, bro" certa... (Below threshold)

"Don't shoot me, bro" certainly doesn't rise to the comedic level of "Don't taze me, bro".

No Bill O'Reilly bumper sticker slogan moment for her. (sigh)

... and a baseball bat.... (Below threshold)

... and a baseball bat.

You know, because the Japanese play wack-the-watermelon on the beach.


Oh, I see, KKK. Well, then the baseball bat would still fit.

If they had shot her, it wo... (Below threshold)
Mark L:

If they had shot her, it would have just been a case of a little chlorine in the gene pool.

That may sound harsh, but she forgot Heinlein's law that stupidity can be a capital crime, and one in which there is no appeal once sentence is passed.

She got lucky.

She's lucky not to have die... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

She's lucky not to have died of lead poisoning.

Thank God it wasn't one of ... (Below threshold)

Thank God it wasn't one of the Tufts moonbats.
-a Tufts Alum

What I DON'T want to have h... (Below threshold)

What I DON'T want to have happen is that police hesitate in a future incident that ISN'T a "stunt".

Unfortunately I believe that is exactly what this will lead to.

Since the police passed on their chance to put a third "eye" in the middle of her forehead, she should at least do serious jail time.

Intelligence sometimes is s... (Below threshold)

Intelligence sometimes is shrouded in social ineptitude.

I disagree Justrand,<... (Below threshold)

I disagree Justrand,

It seems she intended no malice, and wasn't aware of her actions and/or their implications.

It would seem that she put on a shirt the style of which (ie... electronics enhanced) she probably wore often. She then had some play-doh in her pocket for whatever reason (maybe she likes it as a midday snack... mmmmmmm play-doh) and was surprised to find her thoughtless actions had such dire unintended results.

I agree, she's lucky she's alive (good for her following security's instructions), but let's not jump the gun and attach malice to her actions.

Now, if she HAD intended malice to cause chaos with her actions, then she should be punished as such. But stiff punishment for her accidental lack of forethought would be a gross miscarriage of justice.

I tend to agree with ExSub... (Below threshold)

I tend to agree with ExSubNuke, a couple hundred hours of community service will help her and her friends think twice next time.

How many hours of community... (Below threshold)
nogo war:

How many hours of community service should Weller serve

"(good for her following se... (Below threshold)

"(good for her following security's instructions)"

Once guns were drawn she started following instructions. Actually, part of the reason she got arrested was that she didn't answer a simple question from an airport worker about what she was wearing on her chest.

nogoI dunno, maybe... (Below threshold)


I dunno, maybe as many as Harry Reid.

Jeeebus Nogo, you're like o... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:

Jeeebus Nogo, you're like on automatic response to deflect everytime you post.

Seriously, it weakens any argument you believe you have.

nogo,can we contin... (Below threshold)


can we continue our game that the Colorado State students started?

Chicken F**k Obama (for not voting)

Your turn.

a clear-cut case of Fasc... (Below threshold)

a clear-cut case of Fascist Oppression and Iron-Handed Overreaction if ever there was one.

Is anybody claiming that?

Brian,nogo seems t... (Below threshold)


nogo seems to be gone. Would you play the CSU game of free speech with me?


Your turn.

nogo is as big a moron as S... (Below threshold)

nogo is as big a moron as Star Simpson.

The chick needs to do some time. Letting her go will only encourage copycats.

Her actions could have gotten innocent people killed. That's not "fun" or "fashion" by any stretch of imagination.

ExSubNuke,It se... (Below threshold)


It seems she intended no malice, and wasn't aware of her actions and/or their implications.

Oh, horse hockey!

And if in the minuscule chance that you might be right it just proves what I have always said about academia. For all their alleged "intelligence" they have no wisdom and no common sense. In fact most of them are as dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to the real world.

I will tell you right now that common sense and wisdom are worth one hell of alot more then any piece of paper she would get from MIT. All that piece of paper means is that she learned how to BS people and spout the party line. It certainly does not mean that she has any knowledge of how the real world works, That is to be expected out of some idiot who has lived her life in the "reality-based community".

>Is anybody claiming tha... (Below threshold)

>Is anybody claiming that?
Brian,nogo seems to be gone. Would you play the CSU game of free speech with me?

In the absence of an intelligent response, I'll take that as a "no".

Ennis,I do think s... (Below threshold)


I do think she did it completely on accident, and, yeah, I pretty much agree with the rest of your post too.

Jim, she should be punished... (Below threshold)

Jim, she should be punished, but jail time costs us. I think a couple hundred hours picking up Harvard Square is good for the public order and would put a serious crimp on her school life (she would have the equivalent of a real job, sanitary engineer).

"It seems she intended no m... (Below threshold)

"It seems she intended no malice". Intent might mitigate the severity of her sentence, but "accidental lack of forethought"? Puh-leeease! I just happened to bring my two wads of Play-Doh to the airport the day I wore my circuit board sweats?
I'm assuming that "accidental lack of forethought" will be the claim you make for posting that tripe?"

Her first name would indica... (Below threshold)

Her first name would indicate the need to live up to something. She had her "fifteen minutes" with this phony expression of "art" and almost got more than she bargained for.

You know alacrityfitzhugh, ... (Below threshold)

You know alacrityfitzhugh, your comment brings to mind something that happened to my co-worker recently.

I work in the Nuclear Power industry, and must walk through all sorts of detectors every day. Last week, a co-worker of mine was coming through the turnstile, and like always, just threw his flashlight, keys and PDA into the basket to put through the x-ray. After passing through, he was calmly asked to submit his personal items for closer inspection while he was kept under the watchful eye of security.

You see, it just happened that all those items (flashlight, keys and PDA) fell into the basket in such a configuration that it LOOKED like a gun in the X-ray. It also doesn't help that his prefered hairstyle lends itself to making him look ALMOST like a crazy maniac on windy days.

Now, does he need to be escorted off property and lose his job? No. He put exactly zero thought into how he put those items into the basket, it just happened to end up looking very suspicious.

Much the same, this girl put exactly ZERO thought into what she was wearing (wires, batteries, and circuit boards) in conjunction with what she was carrying (play-doh). It just so happens that it LOOKED an awful lot like a bomb. But she didn't think of that. She was probably thinking about making sure she was ontime to pick up her boyfriend. At that point in time, she just had the horrible luck to be standing in an airport with what LOOKED like a bomb.

Reading some of the other items from the local news, her "oops" served to point out to police a gaping hole in airport security (monitoring baggage claim for suspicious activity), and they are addressing it now. You could almost thank her for her "oops".

It's almost like the "Hi Jack!!!" running joke in the movie "Airplane".

Maybe some serious community service, and definitely a stern talking to about thinking ahead. But jail time would be way over the top for her.

"it just happened that all ... (Below threshold)

"it just happened that all those items (flashlight, keys and PDA) fell into the basket in such a configuration that it LOOKED like a gun "
So you're comparing an accidental resemblance of inanimate objects, falling at random with her choice of clothing, fashion accessories and frickin' Play-Doh? Which I suppose she could have forgotten about in a purse or backpack...where do you carry your Play-Doh, ESN? But, she's carrying it around in her hands, where she must have, what's the expression?...had the accidental lack of forethought to remember what she was carrying around???
ESN: I was born at night, but it wasn't last night! Apply Occam's razor to this ditz and you don't come up with she was sculpting Gumby to take on the plane with her!

I don't carry play-doh, but... (Below threshold)

I don't carry play-doh, but I did know someone on the ustafish that carried around some white clayish substance that he used as a stress releiver squeezie.

Same to you. Apply Occam's Razor. What's more likely, she wants to make a political statement/create some chaos and be darned lucky she's not KILLED in the process,


she didn't think about what she was wearing in conjunction with what she was carrying.

"What's more likely, she wa... (Below threshold)

"What's more likely, she wants to make a political statement/create some chaos" Yes. Who in the #%*&#%*% carries Play-Doh to the airport?

But, your attempts to normalize her behavior are quite amusing!

Please don't take this as a... (Below threshold)

Please don't take this as an insult, because it's not.

You obviously haven't spent any time around smart eccentric people. That behavior really isn't all that hard to believe in that context.

She wears electronics as a fashion statement for pete's sake.

You'll recall not so long a... (Below threshold)

You'll recall not so long ago the "ad campaign" with funny little circuit boards that got all the media attention, with similar concerns. Lets see now, what city was that?

There's little doubt that there's ample opportunity for a member of Boston society to KNOW what the ramifications of wearing such stuff on or off campus is. An MIT student has been screened for intelligence just by having been accepted. Judgement, on the other hand, is apparently not as important a quality to screen for at MIT as it is at Logan International.

"You obviously haven't spen... (Below threshold)

"You obviously haven't spent any time around smart eccentric people" Apparently, neither have any of your friends!
The question you keep ducking is why the frickin' Play-Doh? And don't give me that "stress releiver (sic) squeezie" BS! She said it was an "art project". Have you forgotten that Boston was also the scene recently of a mistaken bomb scare where flashing lights for some cartoon advertisement got the city in an uproar? Do you think all this was done in a vacuum?
In all your "accidental" scenarios, you have a shipmate known to you and an employee known to the guard. Was she known to anyone out at the airport? Excuse the pun, but was she terminally stupid?

Maybe I could even buy the "Gee this is my favorite sweatshirt, all my friends are wearing it, I don't think anything about it, this is my fashion statement" line.
Except I don't know of anyone who carries around Play-Doh while coincidentally wearing their circuit board sweats as a fashion statement! Especially not into an airport!

BTW: "You obviously haven't spent any time around smart eccentric people" I like the way you make that ass umption based on absolutely no facts whatsoever!
Keep up the hermeneutic, ESN! The whole lack of facts thing can get in the way of a good narrative!

Side note: Since she is fro... (Below threshold)

Side note: Since she is from Hawaii, there is a possibility that she can never go home. She certainly placed herself on the TSA's no-fly list. That list probably covers cruise ships, too.

Word of warning. I was reading last week an account by a embedded systems programmer. It seems that he was detained at the airport because the TSA didn't like the looks of his equipment. He had built his own microchip programmer, and he was detained because they wouldn't let him on the plane with any home-brew electronics, even though they verified that he was telling the truth about the device. He was forced to pay for a commercial device that came in a nice package before he could fly to his customer site.

Alright, here's a major rea... (Below threshold)

Alright, here's a major reason why I don't think she did it on purpose.

I could honestly see myself doing something like that if I used play-doh as a stress squeezie and liked wearing electronics as a fashion statement. I've actually done more eccentric things in my past.

Don't ask.

Insult and deride as you see fit, but neither I, nor you know why she was carrying Play-doh. Unless you can peek into her head to know why she did it, you make an ass-umption as well. And I'd rather presume her innocent until proven guilty.

"neither I, nor you know wh... (Below threshold)

"neither I, nor you know why she was carrying Play-doh." Hence, the use of Occam's razor, not fairytales and wishful thinking!
"I'd rather presume her innocent". Fine! I'd rather let the facts speak for themselves!

ExSub, alacrity, if I may:<... (Below threshold)

ExSub, alacrity, if I may:

I think I can settle your disagreement.

Here are a few things I think we can all agree upon:

1) "Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."

2) There is often an inverse relationship between intelligence and common sense.

3) This factor is often amplified and increased exponentially by the addition of youth and inexperience.

While I wouldn't put alacrity's theory completely out of bounds, in this case I'm willing to give the student the benefit of the doubt (the "presumption of innocence") and say that it is more than plausible she was simply a twit, and not an asshat.

Of course, if it turns out she's a DU poster or a MoveOn.org member or some other species of moonbat, I'll take it all back.

And at that point, I'll change the category of this piece from "Dumbasses" to "Asshats" or "Attention Whores."


"I could honestly see mysel... (Below threshold)

"I could honestly see myself doing something like that if I used play-doh as a stress squeezie [not even your shipmate used Play-Doh...evidence = 0) and liked wearing electronics as a fashion statement." Honestly? To an airport?? Post 9/11??? Your mind would never trip to the fact that a clay-like substance in your hands and some foreign looking electronics might excite someone in airport security? No situational awareness at all?
Since we're playing "if", if it turns out that one of her wires was stuck in one of her pieces of Play-Doh, that would put the kibosh on your "stress reliever" theory!

Here's another theory for you: She was chewing the Play-Doh to take her mind off her Cheetos addiction! It was an honest snacking mistake! (If I can come up with any other scenarios that make as much sense as yours, I'll pass them along,too!)

No offense to ExSub or Jay,... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:

No offense to ExSub or Jay, but I'm with alacrityfitzhugh on this one...

Circuit board wardrobe?... perhaps
Combine with "Play-doh"... No way.

Girl knew exactly what she was doing.

Just my opinion.

...Combine with airport...<... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:

...Combine with airport...

I find it hard to believe t... (Below threshold)

I find it hard to believe that this individual got up one morning and said, "I've got to go out to the airport and pick up my friend. Gee, while I'm there, why don't I just jerk the chain of a few TSA types to see what they do."

When you are an electrical engineering student, circuit boards are mundane objects that you deal with every day. You might be surprised to find out that other people think they are a big deal. I used to routinely carry circuit boards onto airplanes.

Then again, I was certainly surprised to find out that the TSA thought my vitamin pills were dangerous when they took them away during a baggage check.

I'm going to have to side with innocent by reason of innocence on this one.

"When you are an electrical... (Below threshold)

"When you are an electrical engineering student, circuit boards are mundane objects that you deal with every day." I'm in manufacturing. Circuit boards are mundane objects to me, too! I've even transported some of them through airport security. I am mindful of how they might appear to TSA agents. You could not, however, pay me to put a wad of Play-Doh next to one of them and carry it displayed on my person in an airport!
If it were just the circuit board, she might have plausible deniability! Count all the people you know, on one hand, who carry around globs of Play-Doh and tell me if you have five fingers left over!
Extra points if any of these people wear circuit boards with blinking LEDs!

alacrityfitzhugh,T... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:


This is all about intent.

You, I, and others believe that there are too many variables for this idiot girl not to have known that what she was doing. (I'm thinking "moonbat-in-training" here)

There are some of our friends on here that believe she was purely stupid, without malice.

I'm not sure we can go much further with the argument... Until the next jokester does the same thing while shouting "Allah Akbar!"

Let's agree to disagree on this one unless and until we can get more of "Star's" background.

You, I, and others belie... (Below threshold)

You, I, and others believe that there are too many variables for this idiot girl not to have known that what she was doing.

There are plenty of examples of idiot college students doing things that defy common sense.

Note that ExSub is not saying she shouldn't face consequences. His original post was just disagreeing that the idiot should "do serious jail time".

If you want to see a clear ... (Below threshold)

If you want to see a clear picture of the "device", you can see it here.

It's just a breadboard with 10 LEDs and a battery.

You can also see the Boston PD's weaponry here:

I am having difficulty with... (Below threshold)

I am having difficulty with the notion that a sentient being in this day and age could put that device on her clothing and go to the airport without for a moment considering that it would be an issue. I don't think "intent" has anything to do with it - although I'd be curious what the explanation for the play-doh is.

This is way worse than the two loons who put up the funky light devices all over the city of Boston.

This has very little to do ... (Below threshold)

This has very little to do with intent and a whole lot to do with judgement. She shows complete lack of judgement.

Stunt.Most likely ... (Below threshold)
Uncle Pinky:


Most likely more passive-aggressive than malicious. The back-up story (all the kids wear them) already being in place is an indicator. I actually know a couple of MIT guys who think nothing of walking around in their jammies with floss hanging from their current tooth (so they might remember which to floss next), but very few of them talk about art. They talk about elegance. Wouldn't be surprised if she picked up the Play-Doh at the concourse because she thought she had the makings of a good gag going on.

MIT, while being a lonely and cliqueish place, is completely wired. A stunt like this, following the tased goof, is relatively unremarkable. Star should do her service and re-think her chosen dumbness.

For, Is it not written; the paltry attempts of MIT shall never approach the sublime Coyote spirit of CalTech.

She's lucky to have not bee... (Below threshold)
Bill Clinton:

She's lucky to have not been shot in the head several times. What a shame. It would have made a good example of what NOT to do as a student.

I could use some new interns though, I'll give her something to mold with her hands instead of playdough.

If you want a good example ... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

If you want a good example of otherwise smart people doing or saying stupid things, go no futher than Rance's first link.

Several people ask why the cops didn't taser a person they thought may have been carrying an electrically activated explosive.

She had an idiot moment. I can't pass Logan without thinking of 9/11, I put my sister on a plane there one week before the attack. But someone like her lives in her own world, which eventually becomes useful to us as people like that can do things with technology nobody ever dreamed of. But the greater the intelligence, the more spectacular the fark-ups.

Unless solid evidence is brought forward, such as statements from the girl that she intended some kind of political statement, I'm going with the "had a stupid moment" side and glad that security there is competent. Spot a potential, assess the situation, take the minimum necessary steps to defuse it, and examine the evidence afterwards.

Inability to reason or ment... (Below threshold)

Inability to reason or mental health problems, take your pick. I hope she understands that you don't do your banking with a ski mask on either. Crazy lady.

"If you want to see a cl... (Below threshold)

"If you want to see a clear picture of the "device"...It's just a breadboard with 10 LEDs and a battery." ...and a couple of pounds of a clay-like substance that might have been C-4.
Wikipedia had a picture of an even more innocuous looking device here:

"Simpson is free on bail" .... (Below threshold)

"Simpson is free on bail" ...could be genetic!
OJ, Jessica and Star...

I'm going on vacation in th... (Below threshold)

I'm going on vacation in the near future that will require me to go through two major airports (thankfully not Boston Logan).

I'm taking a survey here as to what currently constitutes a bomb threat so as not to get machine gunned by the security personnel.

It is already clear that a device showing 10 LEDs, a circuit board, and a battery is considered to be a bomb, or at least a "hoax bomb". The question is what else falls into this category.

Does the number of LED's matter? Is there a cutoff point? My laptop shows 3 LEDs and the wireless card has 2 more, for a total of 5. Is that too many to be safe? My MP3 player has one, is that safe? My uncle Fred has a stupid Christmas tree necktie with flashing LED lights. Aesthetics aside, is it safe for him to wear it to a public place?

Is it required that the circuit board be visible for it to be considered a bomb/hoax bomb?
Most people know that if you have a lighted LED, it is connected to some sort of circuitry, whether you can see it or not. Does a hidden circuit board count? My laptop, MP3 player, calculator, camera, light meter, and PDA all have circuit boards. Are they still safe? My calculator has a see-through case so you can see the board in it.

Does the visible battery matter? Star Simpson's battery was visible. If the battery is hidden, is it still a threat? Everything with a working LED has got a battery attached to it somewhere. Does a sleek case make it not a threat?


How many LED's does it take to move a device from being benign to being a threat? We know that 10 is already at the treat level.

How much exposed wire constitutes a threat? (Remember, your average earbuds have about 2 ft of exposed wiring.)

Does the circuitry have to be exposed or not to constitute a threat?

Does having darker than average skin and an odd hair color make any of this more of a threat?

You have a calculator with ... (Below threshold)

You have a calculator with a clear case?!?!


Where do I get one?

Lordy, RanceMaybe ... (Below threshold)

Lordy, Rance

Maybe if you use your brains and exercise judgment you won't have any problems.

Darleen,It's not m... (Below threshold)


It's not my judgment I'm worried about. It's the judgment of the guys with machine guns.

Last year they confiscated my vitamin pills because they thought they were a threat, so I know what good judgment they have.

"Lordy, RanceMayb... (Below threshold)

"Lordy, Rance
Maybe if you use your brains and exercise judgment"

Good luck making a silk purse from that sow's ear!

My uncle Fred has a stupid Christmas tree necktie with flashing LED lights"And if he takes it to the airport wired to a block of Play-Doh, I hope they shoot his ass!

How unimaginably DENSE are you that you miss the faux plastic explosive component of her "art" piece?
All of your horse hockey about the number of LEDs is just that. Get a real argument!

Rance: Did you check out my... (Below threshold)

Rance: Did you check out my link to wikipedia on C-4? The photo there shows no LEDs!

alacrityfitzhugh,I... (Below threshold)


I am looking at the photo of the shirt as displayed by the authorities at their press conference:

I see LEDs, a breadboard, some wire, some masking tape, and a battery. I see no fake C4. The reports that I have read said that she had Play-Doh on her hands, not wired to device shown in the photo.

If you see Play-Doh in the picture, please point out where it is.

The rectangular white object is a breadboard. It is used by electrical engineers to construct prototype circuits. It is not a block of Play-Doh. You can read about them here:

Rance, before you make any ... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

Rance, before you make any more comments and swallow your thigh, Read The Farking Article.

She was carrying Play-Doh, it was not visibily connected to the circuit board. The picture is only of te shirt circuit board, and your article for whatever reason leaves out the Play-Doh detail.

Don't be as stupid as she was.

The reports that I have ... (Below threshold)

The reports that I have read said that she had Play-Doh on her hands, not wired to device shown in the photo.

If you see Play-Doh in the picture, please point out where it is. Oh, so if it's not in the picture you've seen, it doesn't exist? The fact that she had it on her as part of her simulated "bomb" was realistic enough for authorities to retain her. And the reason for "the Play-Doh was??????? Please explain! It's the point you've been dodging for the last 23 hours!
We're all waiting here with bated breath!
Of course, you weren't there when it happened so you're free to second guess every one who was there while simultaneously coming up with the lamest excuses ever for her boneheaded actions!

"not wired to (the) device" It was your ridiculous Uncle Fred's tie I said was wired to Play-Doh! Funny! I didn't see Uncle Fred's Christmas tie in the picture either! You can RUN with THAT point! (Makes more sense than what you've brought up so far!)

John Irving,It was... (Below threshold)

John Irving,

It was alacrityfitzhugh who used the phrase "if he takes it to the airport wired to a block of Play-Doh, I hope they shoot his ass!"

That is what I was talking about.

I did read multiple articles, and that's why I questioned his assertions that the Play-Doh was wired to the circuit board. You need to read the responses in the context of the preceeding posts.

The point I was trying to m... (Below threshold)

The point I was trying to make in post #53 is that what is legal/illegal, suspicious/normal in any of our "high paranoia" areas, comes down to what any one of numerous under-trained individuals thinks it is at any particular moment.

It's a fluid environment. One day shampoo is safe, the next it's not, then it is but only 3 ounces. One day you can have photographic film hand inspected, the next day or next airport, not. First shoes had to be x-rayed, then the TSA said they didn't, then they did again. Is cross country passenger safer carrying his insulin on board, or are we all safer because TSA took it away? How much of this is real security, and how much is security theater?

If you belive that this is real security, explain to me the dangers of mother's milk.

I questioned his asserti... (Below threshold)

I questioned his assertions that the Play-Doh was wired to the circuit board. I didn't say it was in her case. (You should try reading more carefully!)
You didn't give a plausible reason why she had it with her!

Define "plausible". ... (Below threshold)

Define "plausible".

We've already come up with 3 (midday snack, stress squeezie, help her deal with her cheetoes addiction).

Those are all just as plausible (in my book) as "want to cause a ruckus and almost get killed with a bomb scare".

All are plausible.

Maybe it was a gift. Maybe the boyfriend and her use it as a "relationship aid". Maybe she was carrying it because it was in her horoscope to do so.

Nobody knows. Until it becomes absolutely clear that there was malice behind the intention, let's presume her innocent... and not go off the deep end.

Define "plausible".<... (Below threshold)

Define "plausible".
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
1. having an appearance of truth or reason; seemingly worthy of approval or acceptance; credible; believable:

Well, we know that one person on the planet uses a clay-like substance (but not "Play-Doh") as a "stress squeezie". I do not believe this is plausible for reasons that would become obvious to you if you were to take and actually squeeze some Play-Doh in your hand.
Here is where a picture of the Play-Doh in question might come in handy! Is it in the form of a brick? Or shaped like the imprint of the lady's hand?
Again, I will challenge this great, interstellar audience to come up with the number of your acquaintances who carry Play-Doh, out of the can, in public with them for ANY reason!
"relationship aid" (Man! I guess what they say about submariners is true!) But, still not plausible! Nor snacks, nor ear plugs in case her brain starts leaking out...zip, zero, nada!
Those are all just as plausible (in my book) Try to color inside the lines and your book'll be much neater!

BTW, presumption of innocence by no means requires checking your intelligence at the door!

alacrityfitzhugh,P... (Below threshold)


Point of information: Is there any report, anywhere which says whether or not the airport employee who reported her to the police, or the police officers, ever saw what was in her hand before she was stopped at gunpoint, or was all of the initial response due to the LEDs on her shirt. I don't know either way.

Plausible explanation: She built prototype electronics circuits. Sometimes when soldering parts, you need a third hand. Play-Doh can be used to hold parts while you are soldering them. She had some in her pocket when she went to the airport and started to absent-mindedly fiddle with it.

It's as plausible, as "Since I'm already going to be at the airport to pick up my friend, Why don't I kill some time by setting off a major panic by the security forces there. That's should be a hoot. My friend won't mind waiting until I make bail to get his ride back to campus."

She had some in her pock... (Below threshold)

She had some in her pocket when she went to the airport and started to absent-mindedly fiddle with it.
Closest thing to a plausible explanation I've heard yet! Except...according to the Boston Herald, she had "a 5- to 6-ounce glob of what turned out to be Play-Doh."

I looked online to see how much Play-Doh that was: Play-Doh Case of Colors includes 10 two-ounce cans of Play-Doh modeling compound.

So, 5- 6 ounces would be two and a half to three cans... If accurate, there goes your plausibility again!

I just did a quick search o... (Below threshold)

I just did a quick search on Walmart.com.

Play-doh comes in 5 oz cans too.

Play-doh comes in 5 oz c... (Below threshold)

Play-doh comes in 5 oz cans too. And she would have the whole can with her (in her pocket?) because... she wanted the water and petroleum distillates to dry up and leave her with a hardened lump?
Again, who carries an entire can of Play-Doh around with them and who carries an entire can of Play-Doh around with them without the can?

Still not in the range of plausible. Possible, but not plausible!

More likely this idiot thou... (Below threshold)

More likely this idiot thought she'd make an "art piece" with a political message that would appeal to other idiots, and it backfired on her.

I've no sympathy for her at all.

There are real terrorists killing scores of people at a time with suicide vests. she is very lucky that someone did not shoot her - much as the unfortunate individual was shot by British Special Branch in London during the subway bombings.

How about this?"Mi... (Below threshold)

How about this?

"Miss. You are being expelled from MIT because you have not developed sufficient situational awareness to go to the airport and pick up a friend. Our graduates will be working with dangerous devices and substances. Devices and substances that can kill everyone in our labs and in an expanding radius from our campus. That is a responsibility we all take here seriously, and a responsibility we expect everyone of our students, faculty, and graduates to take seriously. You failed that basic test, you did not take into account your environment when you went to the airport. If you do not have the sense to not take activated electronic devices and modeling clay into a passenger airport, you do not have the common sense to not turn on electric devices upon smelling natural gas.

You, miss, are a lab accident waiting to happen, and considering what we here at MIT use in our labs, you are a danger that we cannot afford."

Of course, no one has adres... (Below threshold)

Of course, no one has adressed how anyone was to gauge her intent, or why should they believe anything she says until she is secured. No wires to the play-doh? Thanks, next time I see something as weird as that wandering around the airport I will make sure that everything is wired up to proper explosive designs (because I will know that she knows what that is) and I will make sure I understand all of the current jargon at the local university to know what everything written on the back of a sweatshirt actually means before I call security.

Really, I would rather she takes into count what the general expectaions are before she ventures onto the streets. I wonder how she drives?

Not much different than yel... (Below threshold)
Tim in PA:

Not much different than yelling "fire" in a theater. Periond, end of story.

In the security field they have a concept called "honoring the threat" - they can't afford to shrug something off; better to overreact to some idiot student carrying blinky lights and playdoh, than to be wrong and have everyone ask why you didn't stop it. This is an area where you don't screw around.

I have (had) a friend who got all bent out of shape a few years ago because I explained to him why wearing a button that says "terrorist" to the airport is Not A Good Idea. He went on ranting about Bush and facism and free speech, and totally blew off the concepts I explained above.

Personally, I'd not be likely to mistake something for a bomb unless it was a real one or intentionaly made to look like one. And if I saw someone carrying something like that in public I'd probably not hesitate to shoot them.

RE: Aclarity Playdoh? I can... (Below threshold)

RE: Aclarity Playdoh? I can't rightly say how many people I know that carry that around, however a friend of mine constantly carries around and plays with 3 eggs of silly putty that he combined into one.

Playdoh? I can't rightly... (Below threshold)

Playdoh? I can't rightly say how many people I know that carry that around, however a friend of mine constantly carries around and plays with 3 eggs of silly putty that he combined into one.
A) Three eggs of silly putty are considerably smaller in volume than 5-6 ounces of Play-Doh.
B) Different texture, composition in silly putty. Maybe that's why police use Play-Doh to simulate plastic explosives.
C) We've found two people who carry Silly Putty or a clay-like substance, but none who carry Play-Doh. (At least not five to six ounces at a time!)
Silly Putty -1, Play-Doh -0

According to wikipedia: ... (Below threshold)

According to wikipedia: Silly Putty is sold as a 0.47 oz (13 g) piece of plastic clay inside an egg-shaped plastic container.
So three eggs of Silly Putty would be a little under 1 ½ ounces.






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