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back to article Mythbusters cannonball ‘myth-fires’

If non-US readers have ever wondered how far the Alameda County bomb disposal range (beloved of Discovery Channel show Mythbusters) is from homes, it seems it’s at least close enough for a misdirected cannonball to hit a house. And then another house, a hill and a car. Mythbusters hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are red- …

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Mushroom

Housebusters!

How lucky can you get?

As no one was injured, it did make me laugh.

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Ditto

Exploding science is the best kind of science. Looking forward to this episode.

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Unfortunately they have said that they are going to dump this whole experience on the cutting room floor. Which is a shame since its probably up there with the best things they have done.

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Urh
WTF?

Hang on...

"And yes, they still intend to screen the episode the cannon was built for." To me, that implies that the balls-up in question is going to be shown. Now that it's been reported, they'd be hurting their ratings if they *didn't* show it.

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Anonymous Coward

..."its probably up there with the best things they have done."

Except the time when they made a cast of Kari's behind !

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Mushroom

Epic can't wait to see this one :)

Glad no one was hurt.

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Typical Mythbuster

This is what they do afterall.

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Facepalm

Wonder how big the disclaimer, 'don't try this at home kids' is going to be. Just glad no one was hurt and at least they're doing the right thing about putting people up in hotels and paying for the damage. Can't wait to see that episode.

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Mushroom

With a bit of luck...

...they'll screen the misfire and the resultant damage/mayhem and end it with "...and this is why!"

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Headmaster

Probably same sized disclaimer, but will have a segment that talks about what could happen if anything went wrong.

They were lucky. Had someone gotten hurt the show would have been cancelled.

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I wonder if this f-up has triggered interest from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. They may not be out of hot water, even though nobody was injured (this time).

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Hill

That's why you put a sand bunker behind your targets. Hope they get more than a slap the wrist for this.

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From the article

It sounds as if they had a load of water barrels instead of sand, but they missed them too.

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Mushroom

Anyone who knows ANYTHING about smoothbore cannon knows that solid spherical projectiles WILL skip and bounce - Waterbarrels are not enough - you need a trap, like the afore-mentioned sand - to prevent just this kind of thing from happening. Clearly, the Myth-busting crew did NOT do their homework.

Myth: Blasted.

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Eastward

I guess I'm puzzled as to why they were firing east, since there's MORE than adequate distance from housing when firing north.

(The Alameda Bomb Range is a little over a mile from where I live, I see their white truck from time to time)

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Boffin

@laird cummings

If you'd done your homework (or even have read the article) you'd have noticed that they were a) testing the velocity they could get from a home made cannon, b) had water barrels *and* an earth berm behind them.

What appears to have gone wrong is that the velocity was much greater than they had anticipated, consequently the trajectory of the cannonball was too high, going over the water barrels and then skipping off the berm, causing it to be lofted towards the houses.

It's easy with hindsight to think that they should have aimed it with a lower trajectory etc, but given that the officials at the Alameda County Bomb Range let them fire it (which I doubt very much they'd have done if they thought this could happen) this is clearly just an unfortunate series of events rather than a lack of "homework".

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Anonymous Coward

or alternatively..

House...Busted!

my 1" smoothbore cannon can throw a 1 inch lead ball for over a mile and it definitely "bounces" rather than stick in dirt at anything resembling a shallow angle. It'll skip off of water at less than 45 degrees. Even Hollywood gets the bounce right every now and then. Gibson's "The Patriot" wasn't too far off with the effects of cannon on ranked infantry.

Anonymous because, even tho it's a smoothbore muzzleloader and technically legal in 50 states, California legislators are probably working on a ban right now because of this. "Don't let a tragedy go to waste".

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Anonymous Coward

sorry it is still lack of homework

ballistics is a simple, ancient and refined art. Chamber pressures for given amounts of any type of commercial powder are all published and available. Bore size, powder charge, barrel length, projectile area and projectile mass were all known and critical to both understanding whether the breech would explode and will tell you almost exactly how fast the ball will be going when it exits the muzzle.

Once you know the muzzle velocity, barrel angle and the mass of the projectile, it's simple high school math to plot trajectory and initial impact point, minus an inch or two out because of ball friction and to the left or right depending on wind speed and time aloft. Hell, the bigger the ball the closer to mathematical ideal it gets!

A given size charge, in a given size breech, of a given powder type and set cannon dimensions will give you very similar results every time. It's not rocket science :P

hell that's what the first computers were used for, generating artillery tables. Any first year physics student should have done labs on this.

Scrapheap Challenge (Junkyard Wars) even did this-homemade cannons where points were awarded on accuracy and knockdown results to a cinderblock wall.

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Anonymous Coward

A for Physics, F for Engineering

Rifling & miniballs were invented because of the nasty tendency for smoothbores to not fly in the direction that the gun or cannon was aimed in. Even a 1 deg error in firing angle makes a huge difference past 100m.

But they wouldn't have taught you that in your first year physics classes.

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Every episode I've seen involving weapons and explosions featured experts on-hand to provide guidance. This is probably a requirement of their insurance carrier, who is now paying the bills and asking, "Who approved this experiment?"

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@Graham Marsden

You have just conclusively demonstrated that you don't have enough knowledge to be allowed to comment on this suhbject.

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Picture here

http://bit.ly/rOEpjc

Is it just this one, or are all US houses constructed from chicken wire, bin bags and hair clippings?

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@chris miller

"Is it just this one, or are all US houses constructed from chicken wire, bin bags and hair clippings?"

Outside of the big cities it does seem that not many americans or canadians have ever heard of that new fangled invention called a "brick". So they build their houses out of plywood and other cheap rubbish and then look all bemused when they get blown down in a strong wind or burnt to the ground from one spark in a forest fire. The fact that the chimney is always left standing should give them a clue to how to rebuild but it never does.

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Chicken / Egg

Most people in the US AREN'T bemused when their plywood and spit house gets burnt down by a firest fire or blown away by a hurricane/tornado.

In large swaths of the US it's not IF you property could be caust in the local natural disaster of choice but WHEN. As such when it happens most Americans are just happy they only had to pay the insurance for/cost fo rebuilding a plywood and spit house, not the cost of insuring and rebuilding a brick one.

In the UK people don't really understand what a hurricane (for example) is. Hell, many people in the South East of England still think Michael Fish was wrong in 1987 when he said there wasn't a hurricane coming but he wasn't. There WASN'T a hurricane, it was just a bit windy with some gusts at hurricane force on the Beaufort scale. That's quite different from a hurricane where it's not the gusts that are hurricane force but the whole thing.

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FAIL

There are lots and lots of brick homes in America. Bear in mind that this one is less than a mile from a BOMB RANGE. Not gonna be a palace.

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Anonymous Coward

Insulation

Often poorly insulated too, even though they have much harsher winters. Noticed that when I visited relatives in Canada.

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True

However most locales would have to bring the bricks from far away as brickyards are relatively rare in the US. Think importing bricks from Warsaw to build your house in Cambridge. Solution use local materials.

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Anonymous Coward

You mean like most British houses are build after 17th century designs and from shoddy materials (simple bricks, plasterboard and chipboard)?

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Anonymous Coward

Lumberjacks

Have you noticed how big the forests are in Canada..?

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California has lots of earth quakes that crack brick. Places in the US were you have hurricanes or tornadoes you find the houses are made of brick.

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Anonymous Coward

Wood here

Here they're made of wood*, covered with a layer of styrofoam insulation then protected with plastic siding. Older roofs are tiled, but now commonly they're made of aluminum**.

* This is the Pine Tree State and they weren't kidding when they gave it that nickname.

** When in Rome, you know. Well mostly not Rome, since that's just a small town with less than 1,000 people.

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@/\/\j17

"In large swaths of the US it's not IF you property could be caust in the local natural disaster of choice but WHEN"

Hmm , I wonder if that has something to do with what its built of? Perhaps if built of something non flammable and strong it might not burn/blow down. You never know!

"In the UK people don't really understand what a hurricane (for example) is."

Tell that to the people in the hebrides where winds can consistently top 100mph for hours at a time

in a winter storm. And guess what - they don't build their houses from plywood. Perhaps because they've got a brain.

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Happy

@Chris Miller.

The USA is a big place. In this particular location in America, right next to the Hayward fault line, you might not want your house to be made of bricks. Stucco and timber frame are somewhat more earthquake 'friendly' than a brick building. The Bay Area does not get tornadoes at anything like the frequency of Tennessee trailer parks.

Anyway, I think the Stucco house fared pretty well against this cannonball attack.

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Plywood's cheap and plentiful. Brick is expensive and difficult to get in a lot of parts of the US. Also, in California plywood homes tend to outlast brick ones. I think it has to do with flexing instead of breaking in earthquakes.

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Anonymous Coward

no one builds them like the Cheops

There are areas where brick is impractical to use (or any other heavy material) due to the composition of the ground. You can lay a foundation down, but when you're close to an underground water system and have sand for a lawn, you make due in order to live in that area. I live in South Carolina and it's usually sand or clay. We also have people living in flood zones because they decided it was a good idea to build on swampland. There was a reason it was swampland, much like there is a reason that the Misssissippi hasn't maintained the same channel over time. Really no different than when I lived in Hawaii. The colonial houses had small windows and low ceilings like their northern U.S. counterparts. It was one big heat trap. My favorite was a book on how to put out a burning woman (Victorian style clothing while cooking in said homes by a big fireplace) at one of the mission house tours.

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Recall seeing photos and movie clips of american disasters where tornadoes have hit neighbourhoods and nothing but wooden scraps are left :( they rebuild in wood and get blown down in a few years or burnt in a fire.

Have seen the aftermath of a tornado in the uk, might be a couple of roof structures blown to pits, the rest of the houses maybe a few roof tiles and not a lot else

Was not aware that the californian towns where they have skyscrapers were all made from wood, technology exists to make modern structures earthquake resistant :)

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@boltar

Appropriate technology for appropriate local conditions.

Brick construction is slow and expensive, and in the Bay area, inappropriate. That's earthquake country, which is a disaster for brick homes. Unless you LIKE having to rebuild major portions of your house every few years..? Most folks don't.

Frame homes go up fast, are generally resistant to most minor quakes, and any damage from same is usuallty easily patched. If a major quake comes along, a frame house is much less likely to crush the occumants to death when it comes down - indeed, it's less likely to come all the way down at all. Brick, on the other hand, can be *counted* on to come down and kill a few folks.

Also: with the cost of housing - and the need for rapid expansion of housing - in the Bay area, brick is doubly a bad idea. Those homes are owned by average wage earners, not Vanderbilts.

The chickenwire is the anchor matrix for the plaster stucco - any home builder or normally experienced person would recognize it, and stucco is a *very* appropriate technology for the area - cheap, effective, and easily repaired. Indeed, look at how *little* damage was done by a 30lb cannonball: small holes, easily patched by anyone with basic carpentry skills. No splintering, no structural damage, just a small neat hole. Brick, ont the other hand, would have shattered, and cast fragments and projectiles all about, greatly increasing the risk of injury, and have required an extensive rebuild by skilled (and expensive) tradesmen.

IOW, you have NO bloody idea what you're talking about.

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Timber-framed homes are standard in much of the US and very common in the Nordic countries. Built and maintained properly they are nice to live in - and much cheaper than the brick boxes in the UK.

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HCV
Facepalm

Brick in quakeland

The day after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, I drove through a neighborhood 10 or so miles from the epicenter, with lots of houses made of "chicken wire", basically the same construction as the house in question.

They all withstood the quake nicely, except that many of them had piles of reddish-pink dust next to them that used to be their brick chimneys.

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Headmaster

@Jay

True enough, but our tornadoes are shit.

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WTF?

"Brick construction is slow and expensive, and in the Bay area, inappropriate. That's earthquake country, which is a disaster for brick homes."

Is it? How come the non prefab concrete city centre isn't levelled every time there's a tremor then?

"Also: with the cost of housing - and the need for rapid expansion of housing - in the Bay area, brick is doubly a bad idea. Those homes are owned by average wage earners, not Vanderbilts"

Average wage earners in europe manage to afford brick. Are you lot so hard up in the US that you can only afford cheap plywood? Do your cars have Flintstone style holes in the floor to put your feet through as well?

"Brick, ont the other hand, would have shattered, and cast fragments and projectiles all about, greatly increasing the risk of injury, and have required an extensive rebuild by skilled (and expensive) tradesmen."

So your killer argument against brick houses is the danger of shrapnel from someone firing a cannonball at it is it? Following that line of argument I might argue that brick is probably more pirate cutlass proof than wood.

"IOW, you have NO bloody idea what you're talking about."

Don't I? Oh well, you carry on enjoying living in your medieval construction method home. Meanwhile I'll enjoy the benefit of a double brick wall and proper insulation.

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Additional protection

is provided by elastoplast or sticky back plastic I believe

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Bricks???

You're lucky my parents house is made of concrete slush which was poured between two planks to make the walls. When you strip of the plaster you can see the street through the air holes, 1960's quality workmanship at its best.

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Stucco

Californians, somewhat due to state history seem to like Stucco. Personally I can't stand the stuff.

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Temperature

Harsher winters? Bay Area?

What type of harsh winter are you referring to?

I've never worn anything more than a light jacket while living in the same area as this 'cannon' house. Winter is pretty weak here.

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Brick

Heh, brick does very poorly here on the Hayward faultline.

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@ Boltar

Hmmmm, outside of the UK, there are these not-so-newfangled natural disasters called "earthquakes", and a brick building is the worst thing you can possibly be inside of or around in a quake. So people build their houses out of cheap rubbish like plywood that flexes in an earthquake instead of literally shaking apart at the seams like brick and mortar does. The fact that an disproportionately high number of residential earthquake deaths occur because brick chimneys collapse and fall through the roof onto occupants or onto people standing outside should give you a clue on how to build in an earthquake zone, but it probably won't.

(This is especially true considering that the Alameda County test range is probably 5 miles from the Hayward fault and about 25-30 miles from the San Andreas fault.)

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not all

I can say my house is made of brick, along with 90% of the buildings I've seen traveling through the city so its not all ;)

As others have said brick is nice vs high winds, and such but very BAD to earthquakes. Few years back we had a very minor earthquake (2nd I can remember in 30 years). It was so minor I mentioned that it felt like we had an earthquake, and generally they said I was nuts till they turned the news on a little later where it was said we had one....

Afterwards we found out the house had well over $8,000 in damage to the brick work from it shifting that wasn't covered by insurance cause it wasn't immediately noticed till we noticed leaks when it was raining.

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Jay, the strongest tornado recorded in the UK was no more than an F0. That's the smallest they bother to record. Typically we'll get one or two a year at most.

A minor F0 will do a little bit of damage. Suck off a few tiles, blow over a wall maybe.not much more.

Now, think about how many tornadoes the US gets in a year. Most of those will be greater than F1, and a good (and dangerous) number will be F5, the quarter-mile wide monsters that destroy everything in their path. An F5 would turn a brick terrace into a neat pile of rubble on the other side of the street, turn every tree on the road upside down and pile all the cars on top of each other just for fun.

Compare like with like.

Now, as for why we use brick, I'll tell you: weather and resources. We're a wet country and we have lots and lots of clay, whereas the south-western united states is a dry country that has lots of timber. In cool, wet environment the most appropriate materials are those that keep out moisture, require little maintenance to avoid rain damage, and which still provide decent insulation. Brick fulfils all three requirements very well.

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