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In Ant Man and the Wasp, Ant Man starts the movie on house arrest. House arrest is enforced by a standard ankle tracking monitor. Of course, this security mechanism proves woefully inadequate since, you know, he's Ant Man. He doesn't attempt to escape himself but Hank Pym needs him and shrinks him down, rendering the ankle monitor completely irrelevant.

Obviously trying to enforce house arrest using such techniques on a man who can shrink to microscopic scales is a real face palm, especially when you consider that the man who invented the technology is still at large and may have motivation to free him. It is effectively no better than the honor system. So, if the FBI (or whoever is in charge of monitoring said house arrest) wasn't full of short-sighted people, what would be better methods to enforce house arrest on a shrinking man? Modern day technology only please.

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    $\begingroup$ High pressure air curtains on all exterior walls and an electrified net on the roof. Unless he goes microscopic, then all bets are off $\endgroup$ – nzaman Apr 22 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ Put Ant-Man on house arrest with Happy Hogan in the house to monitor him night and day? $\endgroup$ – kikirex Apr 22 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ @kikirex: Happy can't even monitor a teenager properly. $\endgroup$ – Ellesedil Apr 22 at 17:37
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    $\begingroup$ As a side-note: the shrinking in itself doesn't necessarily appear to be a problem in the first place in-universe. So far the world only knows that he can shrink in his suit, which he doesn't wear when they put the tag on him, so he'd have to get the monitor off to put the suit on or keep it on when shrinking... $\endgroup$ – Frank Hopkins Apr 22 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ I always think these sort of oversights are hard to answer, if his suit can shrink him and his clothes how does it know not to shrink his ankle monitor? $\endgroup$ – BKlassen Apr 22 at 22:16

14 Answers 14

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How do they keep normal people from jimmying the anklet with a screwdriver? By making it tamper-evident. Sure, it's possible to compromise the electronics, but you're going to have a lot of explaining to do when they take a look at it.

So the basic idea is that if Ant-Man shrinks out of the bracelet, it either sets off an alarm or is indelibly marked (or both). Perhaps an elastic band that, if detached, will shrink and bring electric contacts together, triggering an alarm. Or the contacts could be latches that will break if forced apart.

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    $\begingroup$ That is both simpler and more elegant than anything I was coming up with myself! $\endgroup$ – conman Apr 22 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ A heat sensor would do it, though I'm thinking surgical steel through the leg, myself. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 22 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH I saw Dr. Phil do something like that when helping a severe alcohol. Her ankle monitor had heat sensors that could somehow monitor her BAC. $\endgroup$ – let's have a breakdown Apr 22 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ What happens if he slips a bracelet underneath it before shrinking? $\endgroup$ – Acccumulation Apr 23 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ Some of these comments sound like something out of Saw movie. $\endgroup$ – void_ptr Apr 23 at 20:31
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Use an ankle monitor that also records Ant Man's pulse

If his pulse stops, then it sets off an alarm, indicating that he's either dead, or he has removed it (probably by shrinking).

In general, the fact that ankle bracelets are hard to remove, is really only secondary to the fact that if they are removed the authorities are notified, or at least that the tampering is evident. I mean, almost anyone can get out of an ankle bracelet with a pair of bolt cutters anyway.

House arrest is used when the offender is actually trusted by law enforcement to comply with the terms of their house arrest. Violating those terms is grounds for the privilege of house arrest to be revoked, so it is usually not worth it to them to violate the terms. The same philosophy would apply to Ant Man.

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Shrink his house

Give him a taste of his own poison. Shrink his home and have it kept inside a glass dome. This makes it easier and cheaper to have surveylance 24/7 around the house, so that if he wants to leave, he'll have to traverse the quantum realm. That's opening up a storageroom full of cans of worms, so it might just be deterrent enough.

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    $\begingroup$ @kikirex no, that is just lazy writing from the MCU staff. If we were to make a scientific analysis of the movie the square cube law would spoil the fun on every turn of events. $\endgroup$ – Renan Apr 22 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Renan Yeah mass conservation has always bugged me, especially with that keychain/tank, until I told my brain "shut up and enjoy the action". $\endgroup$ – kikirex Apr 22 at 21:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Renan What lazy writing? We're not talking about individual story elements being scientifically problematic, but about the entire premise. Either you allow these violations, or there's no Ant Man. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Apr 23 at 5:19
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    $\begingroup$ @renan: The Pym particle canonically messes with the relationships of size, mass, density and inertia according to some overly complex set of formulae. It’s designed to let the writers not give a damn about the laws of physics as long as something is changing size. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 23 at 7:48
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs See, I'm fine with the canonical explanation being "messes with size, mass, density, and inertia in a way that is complex and variable" because then whenever it changes to suit the plot, you can just assume that Ant-Man just messed with a control on the suit to acheive the correct result. The issue is that in the movie, it is specifically stated that items retain their full mass when shrunk... and then you see Hank Pym carrying a ~26-tonne tank on his keychain, and in the second movie they're all carrying an entire 10-storey building around as a suitcase. $\endgroup$ – anaximander Apr 23 at 12:33
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Well, this is how I would do it...

enter image description here

(For anybody not as old as I am: This was a cartoon series called "The Ant and the Aardvark", where an aardvark - named Aardvark - would constantly try to catch Charlie the ant.)

Edit: Apologies, I was called away earlier, so didn't manage to elaborate as much as I'd wanted. No, this is not a re-capture system. Unfortunately, Aardvark has an extremely poor performance record in capturing ants.

He does, however, have an almost supernatural ability to track ants and ant-like creatures. No matter where they go, Aardvark will be there within seconds.

Thus the solution is to put a tracking device not on Ant-Man, but on Aardvark. There may be some psychological conditioning needed to shift Aardvarks focus from Charlie to Ant-Man, but with the right encouragement this shouldn't be a problem. Bear in mind that Aardvark is about to hit the big 50 - he's probably wondering what he's doing with his life and that, maybe, it's high time for a change.

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  • $\begingroup$ Even though I had a good laugh out of your answer, please remember that the SE-community discourages one-line-answers. Maybe a short summary about the picture would help? $\endgroup$ – DarthDonut Apr 23 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ Ok it's funny but I don't think it's an answer. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Apr 23 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ Please elaborate. Do you mean having an active recapturing system? $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Apr 23 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4 - no, an active tracking system. See my edit above. $\endgroup$ – Frauke Nonnenmacher Apr 23 at 19:13
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The house is surrounded by a moat. A small one, filled with vinegar. Humans just step over. But an real-life ant could not traverse it. Some ants can swim or float in water. The purpose of the vinegar is to make it too noxious to try. Or use water with some oil on top. This reduces the surface tension of the water so that the ant can not float.

Ant Man is an ant-sized human, not an actual ant, but he'd still need to either float or swim across the moat. Make the sides too slippery to climb up and the liquid impossible to survive.

So maybe Ant Man shrinks to exit the house then grows to step over the moat then shrinks again to sneak away. To prevent that, make sure the moat has a fence on both sides. No human can get in or out of it and it's too small to transform to human-sized while inside. The fence can be electrified so the small version of Ant Man can not climb it.

Honestly, room arrest (in a lovely glass or plexiglass cage with mini-moats at the threshold of the door and any other openings) makes much more sense. Combine it with great security cameras to know when or if he shrinks. Not fun for privacy, but necessary due to his superpowers.

If he can stay shrunk down for the duration of his confinement, then your job is easy. Constructing a box with tiny doll furniture and no escape is quite simple. The boxes probably already exist retail.

If you can't shrink him or confine him to a room or set of rooms, your best hope might be psychological. Make the penalty for violating the house arrest too great to transgress. Like custody of his kids, if he has any. Losing his job. Etc. Fines wouldn't do it as whoever breaks him out would just pay them.

House arrest in real life is only sometimes literal. In the United States, prisoners are allowed to leave their homes for work, school, medical and other appointments, even to run errands. It's restricted and they have to inform the police where they are going and when. Their ankle monitors are to find them if they flee.

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    $\begingroup$ Very applicable because in this case Ant Man had no desire to actually escape because doing so would result in jail time and with it, the possibility of partial custody with his daughter (IIRC). From that perspective, the ankle monitor was sufficient. It only became a problem because someone else with shrinking powers did not want him to stay in house arrest. $\endgroup$ – conman Apr 22 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ A small moat is unlikely to work as Ant-Man can use pretty much any flying animal or insect, including ants, to escape. +1 for room arrest, though. $\endgroup$ – default locale Apr 23 at 8:41
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When KGB was monitoring someone and wanted to be sure to track them wherever they'd go, they used to sprinkle some radioactive dust on the door mat.

Then a Geiger counter was sufficient to their movement, since the radioactive dust, sticking on the sole of their shoes, would emit radioactivity all around.

The only way to go around this was to strip naked and throw away all one was wearing and replace it with new things (CIA knew about this trick after losing some agents).

Antman can shrink, but shrinking won't remove radioactive dust sticking to his clothes/shoes. Just set a Geiger barrier around the confinement area, and as soon as it triggers you know that he is trying something.

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    $\begingroup$ Or you could put some boots on, walk out of the house, then discard the boots. Sure there'd be some transfer of the dust to other bits of clothing, but if you're aware that it's happening it's not too hard to be careful, or to wet down the door mat before walking over it. $\endgroup$ – Corey Apr 24 at 3:32
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what would be better methods to enforce house arrest on a shrinking man?

Use people

You are incarcerating a superhero. That warrants the presence and expense of a fulltime guard. Details like privacy and comfort can be negotiated later, but since this is an alternative to prison, I think Ant Man would be willing to sign away the privacy considerations as part of the terms.

Of course, the guard could be incapacitated, but the goal isn't to keep Ant Man confined to the home, but rather detect if he gets out, then send an army to collect him. If a guard, consisting of 2-3 people at at time, loses visual for more than five minutes or whatever, it can be reported that he has left the premise.

A back of the envelope calculation for cost would be three guards at once, three shifts a day for two years, or about twenty salaries. If these are extremely competent and highly-capable guards, we're looking at an order of magnitude $100K salaries or an upper-bound of \$2 million total to keep Ant Man under house arrest with full confidence that he didn't leave (or immediately detecting if he does).

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    $\begingroup$ Why would you even need people on premise? Couldn't you get the same results (for much cheaper) by just plastering the house with wide-angle lens security cameras? Then you just need someone watching the tape remotely, or a recording to reference back to in case you suspect he left the building at some point. $\endgroup$ – kuhl Apr 23 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ @kuhl That'd be fair if this wasn't a superhero. The US isn't trying to be stingy and get the best security bang for the buck in this scenario. We're trying to maximize how well we know one man has left his house. $2 million is a drop in the bucket for a national security budget (or DoD or whatever), and the risk of not knowing when Ant Man escapes his home greatly outweighs the cost. $\endgroup$ – user1717828 Apr 23 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ Even better, just a bunch of PIR sensors around his house. Maintains general privacy -- basically they can only tell what room he's in, as long as he's behaving -- but isn't thwarted by size changes (as soon as he shrinks, his infrared signature becomes too small for the sensors to detect, and alarms go off). You could even improve privacy by having the PIR sensors all locally wired to simply transmit a "I'm detecting a human-sized heat signature" signal. OR-gate them all together, and so long as at least one sensor is picking up a human-sized signature, NBD. $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Apr 25 at 17:27
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Make the ankle monitor shrink alongside Ant-man

First off, a bit of a frame challenge: we do not have shrinking technology in the modern day. So I'm going to assume that by "modern day", you mean "modern day plus whatever tech needed to make size altering gadgets work".

In the MCU the question is based on, the shrinking tech was invented by a genius scientist, and there are a number of other major scientists in the setting, most of them superheroes themselves. At least one of them (Tony Stark AKA Iron Man) has been established to have countermeasures for at least 1 other superhero scientist (Bruce Banner AKA Hulk).

In that case, I'd get one of the other genius scientists to check the genius shrinking tech inventor scientist's notes and figure out a way to make the ankle monitor piggyback onto the shrinking field, and either shrink along with him OR trigger an alarm when he shrinks.

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    $\begingroup$ The RF antenna inside the shrunken ankle bracelet would also shrink, changing the frequency that it is optimal for. Any receiver expecting a regular signal from the bracelet would see that signal vanish and raise the alarm. $\endgroup$ – Wossname Apr 23 at 13:13
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You're conflating two things.

Legal enforcement

Scott is not legally permitted to leave the house. Doing so will render him subject to future penalties that will severely curtail his future for the long run, such as honest-to-god imprisonment. It is assumed that he does not want to trigger this circumstance.

Practical enforcement

In the movie, just as in the real world, an ankle monitor is a best-effort detection tool to check that the criminal is not violating the terms of house arrest. There is always some measure of trust in this: an ankle monitor can ultimately be sawn off, but it is generally understood that the criminal would rather not risk future capture and a much worse punishment as a result.

You're right to suggest that Ant-Man has a better chance of evading enforcement than the average crim, but that doesn't really change the fact that an ankle monitor is only part of the mechanism. The threat of worsening your legal status is the real incentive to behave. And that's why Scott takes it so seriously until events force him to prioritise a new mission over his future freedom.

Similarly, there's nothing you can really do to "force" powerful beings like the Avengers to sign up to the Sokovia Accords and yield power to the state (Cap's refusal being a textbook demonstration of this), but you have to have an element of trust (and threat of reprisal) when it comes to things like this, and this is the case for any and all laws and treaties worldwide.

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    $\begingroup$ Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars. Spend up to 5 years in prison and pay up to $5,000 for altering or removing an ankle bracelet. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Apr 24 at 10:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Mazura And do not, under any circumstances, enter the quantum realm! $\endgroup$ – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 24 at 11:07
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What's wrong with how they do it in the movie?

In the film the ankle bracelet not only has a perimeter on it to make sure Scott stays inside the house but it also tracks his daily activities. If he were to just take it off they would know because it would move all day. It would then be quite hard to take it off and give it to someone else to track down for 2 reasons:

  1. They might not be able to replicate his daily activities very well.

  2. The other person wouldn't be able to get it on easily. The bracelet is probably tamper proof so you would have to shrink down, to get it off and the other person would have to shrink and enlarge to put it back on. As far as everyone knows there is only 1 suit so this would be difficult.

Obviously in the movie they overcome this by using an ant but I don't think anyone outside of the Hank, Hope, Scott and Cassie knows about the control they have over them.

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I used to work next door to a company that made ankle monitors (mostly for detecting alcohol consumption). Occasionally, I'd chat with their developers (at the local lunch place, or when courier services would mis-deliver packages). Some of the things they monitor are pulse and the off-gassing that human flesh does. Your skin is not some sort of seal, like plastic wrap that keeps the meat inside the meat popsicle: gasses and liquids leak out. This company's devices also measured some of the metabolites that are produced when your body digests/consumes alcohol. I forget whether you were allowed to remove it temporarily to shower/bathe, but it would detect if you put something between your skin and the sensor (such as a sock or slice of bologna). It would also get a long enough baseline of your pulse to detect if you were getting a heart attack (or overdosing on drugs like cocaine) or you swapped it with someone else.

Usually, ankle monitors like these were alternatives to incarceration. Get caught tampering with it and you were looking at going to jail/prison (in the case of the State of Georgia, that's five years).

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Look at this https://www.asianscientist.com/2018/05/in-the-lab/shape-memory-porous-material/. It's a metal fibre that changes its shape depending on the prevailing conditions , it gets smaller the hotter it is and larger the cooler it is. If ant man shrinks , then he is reducing his mass , by the famous $E=mc^2$, formula for every bit of mass he loses energy is lost to the environment. This energy loss will heat the surroundings, so if this metal was placed around his ankle and he started to shrink it would also shrink with him. Now it should be noted that there is a minimum size to which this metal can shrink , but then again if you arranged it instead in some type of coil rather than just a normal circle , that the coil would pull closer together as it shrunk so it could reach a still smaller size relative to its starting shape.

I think this is the closest one could have with current technology to an ankle bracelet that can still be applied to a shrinking man.

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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, Pym particles don't work like that. But, Pym particles make no sense, so I'll give you this. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Apr 23 at 6:23
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Insecticide

Have heat sensors in every room. If he shrinks they will trip and set off insecticide spray.

Note

When I have time I'll respond to comments here. In the meantime I've made a start in the comments below.

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    $\begingroup$ Which won't hurt him because his metabolism doesn't work like that. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Apr 23 at 6:22
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    $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4 - You seem to be assuming that a person the same size as an ant would have the same metabolism as a full-size human. That's impossible - none of our organs would work at that scale and our blood would immediately clog up all our veins. In any case the bug spray I envisage is the type that blocks the spiracles of the insect so it suffocates to death (that's the reason they buzz around for so long). Even if Antman had 'normal' lungs his alveolar ducts would be microscopic (when I have have time I'll work out the actual size) and so the spray would kill him just as easily. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Apr 23 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ P.S. If you still don't think that will work then substitute the insecticide with napalm. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Apr 23 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ "You seem to be assuming that a person the same size as an ant would have the same metabolism as a full-size human. That's impossible" So is shrinking to the size of an ant... It never ceases to amaze me how people are more willing to accept the impossible over something that has changed slightly to accommodate the impossible. $\endgroup$ – TheLethalCarrot Apr 23 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ @ TheLethalCarrot - "So is shrinking to the size of an ant" - This is the inherent problem with any type of magic or superpower. I have to accept shrinkage because it is stipulated in the question. If the OP doesn't supply the details then the whole thing is open to interpretation and I'm allowed to make my own assumptions. Maybe Antman can be even smaller and become moleculeman. Then he can escape from all but a hermetically sealed container. We have to draw the line somewhere and I chose that particular place. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Apr 23 at 9:08
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Put the bracelet in Antman

Surgically insert a transmitting device into him.

If he shrinks and the device shrinks along with him, then the signals it emits becomes interrupted.

If he shrinks and the device does not shrink along with him, then Antman becomes interrupted.

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protected by L.Dutch Apr 23 at 7:30

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