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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Not to mention that brick is not as strong as people here seem to be implying. It doesn't stop cars from entering houses; a loose cannonball shouldn't have any trouble punching through either.

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Tornadoes

And there's me thinking it's just Lewis who hates the Tornado :-)

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Former Brick-loving South African...

Which I am. Turns out that in the US, sky-scrapers are built out of steel and the masonry is cladding. Steel flexes nicely and withstands quakes. In downtown Seattle in the pissy little 6.8 Nisqually quake, all of the old brick buildings rained their bricks down on the streets. They don't build those anymore.

Smaller buildings might be reinforced concrete, but never brick, except as cladding.

Now it's still a puzzle to me why Floridians build with wood. That's just economics. You used all your wood to build ships to form an empire.... thanks for that BTW as one of the remnants.

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FAIL

This is earthquake country however.

In earthquakes brick buildings fall down.

'The fact that the wood buildings are always left standing should give them a clue to how to rebuild but it never does.'

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Anonymous Coward

@Boltar

What are you on about?

You've forgotten (or never heard of) the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The city was built almost entirely of brick, and the earthquake transformed it into a huge heap of rubble.

Current large buildings on San Francisco are NOT simply concrete... They have massive steel internal reinforcement and rest on foundations composed of metal springs, or on rollers to permit the building to withstand earthquakes of as much as 8 on Richter's scale. As you might imagine, this is very expensive and not practicable for houses.

Indeed wood frame houses are as safe as , well, houses in a actively seismic area. Construction of houses in California requires the use of plywood or Oriented Strand Board (OSB) sheathing with specific metal reinforcement as stiffening for the frame. The State studies the effects of major earthquakes on various construction methods, and the cannonballed house's construction was no doubt appropriate for the regulations in effect at the time of construction.

Pray your massive brick walls never encounter a good shake test!

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Stop

And that earthquake tolerant technology suitable for a multi-mega-million dollar large tower is not financially prudent for a house to hold one family.

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FAIL

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

Scan this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake_engineering#Earthquake-Resistant_construction

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Closer yet

I believe the Calavaras fault is the closest to Dublin... maybe a mile or two.

Has been known to generate magnitude 6 quakes.

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Anonymous Coward

harsh winters?

dude harsh winters all the time in the Bay Area....it gets all the way down to 33 degrees F sometimes. Harshes my buzz when I gotta go outside to smoke.

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Unhappy

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

I spent most of my adult life in southwest Florida, where (for hurricane reasons) houses are built from cinder blocks that are strapped down to the ground quite tightly. Not only are they proof against hurricanes, they tend to hold up quite nicely to just about anything else you can throw at them. Fire, tanks, zombie apocalypse...

When I moved to Oregon two years ago, I was horrified and appalled to see houses made of plywood and, I don't know, old newspapers or something. My girlfriend's been mocking me relentlessly about it, but every time I walk upstairs I can't help but feel if I lean against the wall the whole damn house will fall down. (Wood? Really? Who builds houses out of WOOD?)

She did, however, make one valid point: Rigid brick or cinder block houses don't fare well in earthquakes, which we get in Oregon in place of hurricanes. Brick or block houses tend to fracture, or so I'm told, whereas wood houses are flexible enough that they just kinda sway a bit.

Personally, I still feel safer in a house that isn't made of wood.

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Alert

Bricks don't stay up in EQs

Check out Central Christchurch (NZ) for what happens when you have a lot of unreinforced masonry around. Half our central city has been or is being demolished so it doesn't kill anyone else.

In EQ zones, I would far rather live in a timber framed house. It won't fall down and kill you in your bed when a mag 7.2 EQ hits at 4:35am.

Brick buildings came down all over Chch on Feb 22 and caused a lot of the deaths and injuries here that day. Mortar doesn't hold bricks together very well when it is subjected to a lot of seismic shaking. Additonal reinforcing is required to add strength to all types of masonry and concrete structures.

How about, before criticising what you don't understand, you should accept that building methods differ around the world because the local conditions differ too.

What is obvious and useful in the UK may not be so useful in other places!

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Pint

Picture here...

In areas prone to earthquakes, such as most of California, brick construction is generally not used because the bricks tend to separate when the walls are shaken sufficiently strongly. Building codes in CA do allow brick, but it has to be tied together with rebar or other metal devices to keep the bricks from separating. The owners of many old structures which were built of brick or stone are being required to retroactively reinforce the walls (can be VERY expensive) to prevent them from falling down, or if the walls cannot be reinforced, they owners may be required to tear the building down... The law applies to buildings with historical significance as well...

In the last relatively significant earthquake in California's Napa Valley, entire neighborhoods saw their brick or "slumpstone" (looks like adobe bricks but made of cement) chimneys badly damaged or destroyed because they weren't reinforced.

Many houses, maybe the majority, are built with plywood shear walls, then the plywood is covered with chicken wire and then the wire is covered with stucco... That's probably what Chris is seeing.

Beer, cause it's the closest icon available to a wine glass.

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FAIL

If ignorance is bliss...

Read the article, mate. This story occurred in California. Bricks do not stay in a convenient pile during or after an earthquake.

The reason for the chicken wire is that it is common to use stucco or adobe in hot climates.

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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."

*Concrete* slush??? You're lucky to have such a luxury, our walls were filled with paper mache and we had to hold the roof up with our own hands

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Having experienced tornados twice in my life in the southern US, I assure you that not all tornados are created equal. Only an underground bunker could possibly have survived the F5 that went through Birmingham, Alabama. After all, it isn't the wind speed in excess of 350 km/h so much as the minivan striking the house at 150 km/h.

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They've come very close to doing real damage before now, I'm just surprised it's taken this long! Still, I'm sure they're very glad for all the insurance that they continually moan about having to get.

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Meh

Always good to have it confirmed...

...It's not just me that screws up at work.

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Mushroom

Given some of the crazy stuff they've done over the years, it's amazing that nothing has gone seriously wrong before now.

Even now, when a homemade cannon shoots over a hill, through a house and destroys a car, somehow no one is injured.

Well, except that time Tory tried to jump a bike...

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Mushroom

Lucky sods!

Seriously, that could easily have killed folk, would be amazed if they're not hauled up in front of a court

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Anonymous Coward

This isn't a toy

Was a less populated region unavailable? How much intelligence does it take to do this in an area devoid of civilian population with an radius, AT A MINIMUM, of the firing distance? I'm surprised they weren't arrested for reckless endagerment or destruction of property, but they're a commercial enterprise, so the laws are applied differently. They're just extremely lucky they didn't kill or injure anyone.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: This isn't a toy

So your suggesting they should have gone to a bomb range or something?

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Holmes

They were at a bomb disposal range, as stated in the article.

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In fairness, a civilian bomb range probably wasn't the spot to do cannon testing. The Dahlgren Proving Grounds comes to mind for somewhere that is properly setup to handle cannon testing. There probably is a closer Army or Naval facility that is setup to handle cannon testing of the type they were doing.

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Mushroom

When you get right down to it, mombs don't send fragments all that far. The range is well-designed - as a BOMB RANGE. As an artillery range, it's *entirely* inadequate.

The problem, from the production crew's perspective, is, real artillery ranges are 1) far away, 2) hard to gain access, and 3) expensive to operate. So they cut corners massively, instead. The proper techinque, in the case of using the bomb range, would have been to built a shot-trap - a virtual cage of sand or other dense, soft material that could stop any concievable projectile at any concievable angle the cannon could fire. But that costs money, too - Again, corners were cut.

The Mythbusting crew suffered from arrogance and ignorance - Arrogance that they think they have enough knowledge and smarts to defeat random chance, and ignorance of artillery - They didn't bother to consult *real* experts in smoothbore artillery, or if they did, they disregarded their advice.

A six-pound cannon of Napoleonic or American Civil War vintage has a MAXIMUM range of approximately 4000 yards - just a bit less than 4 kilometers. Their 30-pounder..? Who would know, without some serious testing? Which, of course, they didn't do properly - nor did they employ the right kind of people to DO that testing.

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Mushroom

NAWS China Lake comes to mind.

Over 4,500 square kilometers in which to lose a stray cannonball...

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Anonymous Coward

Who is going the arrest them?

Folks from the county sheriff's department were observing and approved what they were doing -- the county sheriff's department is the law enforcement agency, and it operates the bomb range where the canon was being tested.

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Pint

This isn't a toy...

There are not very many "less populated" areas within a reasonable driving distance of the Mythbusters office, and the ones that are nearby are generally unsuitable for other reasons, such as tidal marshes, wetlands or other problems with the neighborhood. To actually get to a sufficiently unpopulated area, they would probably have to drive to somewhere in Nevada or Utah... say the Bonneville Salt Flats, over five hundred miles.

Beer, cause it's the closest thing to a glass of wine.

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@Tony Barnes et al ...

... there seem to be a lot of Elfin Safety bods on this strand today. For $deities' sake, why so serious? Shit happens, no-one was hurt, laugh and carry on - I certainly would if I was one of the affected parties!

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Facepalm

Well there's yer problem :)

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So that's what the comic/diagram on Reddit was about :)

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TRT
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Thumb Up

I love those guys.

Seriously. I want to have their babies.

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Joke

Myth Busted...

The post is required and must contain post

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It sounds as though they tried this in totally the wrong place, but I'm not sure what the right place would be. A smoothbore cannon firing a 30-pound shot was seriously heavy artillery, the sort of weapon used by the heaviest ships of the line. Any firing range has a "danger-space" behind the targets, and this incident shows why.

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Bisley

You mean, like a few miles of uninhabited forest such as behind Stickledown? OSM stands for Oh Sh*te Man! doesn't it?

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Anonymous Coward

Bisley...

...it was only a couple of years back when they banned .338 being used there.

Because someone worked out you could reach the housing estate that was built other the other side of the safety area.

They almost banned .308win about a year after that, because if you had the right bullet weight and shot it precisely at an elevation of (guessing here) 32.253 degress it could just reach them.

I mainly remember this as it was about two weeks after I spent a grand on a new 308, and was getting very P'ed off with the NRA.

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Mushroom

one word....

COOL!

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Trollface

More anti-cannon propaganda!

I’m sure that the “liberals” will march this out as another reason we shouldn’t be allowed extensive cannon collections to protect ourselves with, but remember… Cannons don’t kill people, people do.

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Trollface

You have the right to bear arms

So if you can carry a full size artillery piece firing 30lb cannonballs, I have no problem whatsoever with you being allowed to keep it.

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Bear arms

I always thought the wording on that was a little funny. Surely the US could confiscate all the guns held by private citizens and replace them with ursine appendages?

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Nope, the right to bear arms is merely permission to roll your sleeves up, the merkins have never been good at spelling

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I have had it backwards all this time

I thought it was every American's right to arm bears.

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FAIL

Epic and stupid failure

A lot of people consider this to be very funny but I think some authorities might want to double check on how the rules were applied and followed up here. Because I don't think its much fun if you're sleeping at home (perhaps with a new born?) and end up having to move with the whole family to a hotel because your house needs to be repaired.

The reason why I consider this an epic fail will show very clearly when you check up with Google maps on the scenery. It becomes horribly obvious that the crew has ignored the very basic rule of firing a weapon; don't aim the weapon in the direction of a residential area, no matter how far it is away.

Check the maps; a simple quarter turn would have made sure that this wouldn't have happened.

A bomb disposal range? I know they used that location many times, but what was the logic behind it? A bomb will be the center of an explosion thus the force of the explosion will divided over all sides; minimizing the risk that the shockwave will eventually find its way outside the perimeters.

Firing a weapon on the other hand is totally different; you send an object with a massive force behind it hurtling into one /single/ direction, thus no division of power.

Can't be that hard to conclude that the idea to fire a very potentially high powered weapon on a terrain made for bomb explosions isn't the best idea? Why not talk with the military and use firing ranges for this kind of stuff; a tank firing range for example?

I know its easy to talk after the facts, but since they claim to do things professionally I think we have every right to be critical here.

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Pirate

yeah, but...

As a professional shooter of long-range rifles, I heartily agree with NEARLY everything you say above. A very good summary of the situation, and their poor planning. The range where I fire at 1000 yard targets has MILES of uninhabited forests as a safety range, and is totally closed to any human access (it's been a military firing area for decades).

But I fear that you lost me when you said "perhaps with a new born?". It is totally correct that baby's hearing is more easily damaged by loud noises that an adults, and thus are more vulnerable to even a near miss. But frankly, one more use of "think of the children!" we really didn't need...

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Anonymous Coward

Professionals?

No, they're just a bunch of morons having fun in front of a camera.

And I fully agree that this incident was extremely dangerous and stupidly handed by those clowns, and hopefully the authorities will have a close look into what very easily could have become a tragedy.

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Anonymous Coward

"It becomes horribly obvious that the crew has ignored the very basic rule of firing a weapon; don't aim the weapon in the direction of a residential area, no matter how far it is away."

Well, that's practically impossible.unless you shoot everything up into the air which is probably more dangerous. Also don't use semi-colons, ever.

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Since they have to sign an agreement with the government

every time they use the range, and always discuss in detail with same the nature of what they are going to do at the range, don't you think maybe someone there should have thought of that as well?

They have been responsible about manning up after the fact, which is a lot more than I will say for many people.

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Coat

"perhaps with a new born?"

I'm glad someone's thinking of the children!

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"I'm glad someone's thinking of the children!"

only the hypothetical ones though.

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Anonymous Coward

The world population...

...is about 7 billion! I think we can afford to lose a few in the name of entertainment.

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Coat

lose a few in the name of entertainment.

Only if we get to choose which ones

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