TV show Mythbusters has apologized after an experiment it conducted to measure the speed of a cannonball went wrong, leaving a trail of destruction across a California suburb. Instead of hitting its intended target, the cannon misfired, sending a six-inch ball of lead careening through one house, damaging another before ending up lodged in a minivan. No one was injured.

OMG. I so wish it was my house hit by the Mythbusters Cannon Ball!!!!!

Anyway here’s one of those zany animations of the event:


OMG!!!!

Comments

  1. #1 BJN
    December 8, 2011

    I hope they were able to carry on with their great service to humanity of busting some lame-ass pseudo “myth”. They ran out of legitimate myths and urban legends long ago, and I think there’s a competition among their fans to make up new shit and see if it gets on the show.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    December 8, 2011

    I wonder if this myth was about some cannon ball that got out of control from a firing range, damaged two housed, and wrecked a minivan.

  3. #3 MadScientist
    December 8, 2011

    I’ve never seen a projectile bounce so much! Was it some newfangled rubberlead?

    I wonder what the hell those guys were doing – playing with a large smooth-bore gun without knowing anything about them? I hear threats of lawsuits, huge settlements, and prohibition orders.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    December 8, 2011

    They know quite a bit about large smooth bore guns, actually. It does make you wonder though, about what it was like during 18th and early 19th century artillery fights.

    Also, next time they should use an exploding cannon ball. There would be less bouncing.

  5. #5 Timberwoof
    December 8, 2011

    I think that even with their occasional screwups (such as the rigid girder bridge with things that made it look like a suspension bridge) they are helping popularize scientific thinking.

    Their debunking of movie special effects, especially the incendiary cars, are entertaining and give real-world examples of how physics really works. (I hope they try the gigantic hanging spheres again, only with a deflection that keeps the impacts within the spheres’ elastic collision speeds.)

    I expect that once this is sorted out they will give a frank, honest explanation of what they did wrong and how they will think about such things in the future. Every line in the building safety code was written at the cost of someone’s life: this event similarly should revise safety procedures (without nerfing the planet).

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    December 8, 2011

    Remember the time Adam found out that Jamie was only guessing as to how bullet proof that clear shielding they use is, and probably underestimating a bit?

    Anyway, they are very safety conscious. Obviously, hardly any of them get too injured. Most of the time.

  7. #7 MadScientist
    December 8, 2011

    Yes, I remember the great safety consciousness with which they shot eachother with pennies.

    The ancient smooth bore guns must have been horrible to work with. Windage wasn’t such an issue in the days when you could actually see 6-pound shot and larger bored guns make shots resembling shots on an amateur golfer’s day out. The important thing was that the projectiles at least went forward so you didn’t have to worry about shooting yourself.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    December 8, 2011

    Unless you make an Irish Leather Cannon, then you DON’T want to stand behind it.

  9. #9 Tütüne son
    December 9, 2011

    The ancient smooth bore guns must have been horrible to work with. Windage wasn’t such an issue in the days when you could actually see 6-pound shot and larger bored guns make shots resembling shots on an amateur golfer’s day out. The important thing was that the projectiles at least went forward so you didn’t have to worry about shooting yourself.

  10. #10 Thomas
    December 9, 2011

    As I understand it bouncing was the idea with old cannons. You aimed low and wanted the ball to bounce around through the enemy lines. One of the reasons Napoleon lost at Waterloo was that the ground was so soggy that the cannonballs didn’t bounce, just stuck in the ground.

  11. #11 Art
    December 9, 2011

    Thankfully nobody hurt. Insurance should cover the damage. I would expect that their rates will rise astronomically. Sounds like they need to invest in a tall reinforced concrete wall –possible backed by a nice, thick berm of rocks, gravel and dirt– to keep the ballistic fun and games on-site. That, and/or moving out into a remote area, should go a long way in keeping the insurance people happy, and the general public safe.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    December 9, 2011

    I would not assume their rates would go up at all. First, I’d like to know two things: a) per personnel time, or production time, or some other metric, how many cannon balls into the house events occur in making TV shows and movies on average, compared to for Mythbursters, and b) what their rates currently are.

    Just thinking back to the time, when I was living in Boston, and an event at a scene for a movie broke about five hundred glass windows in a residential neighborhood. Or the risks stunt actors take on a lot of movies. I think that Mythbusters may be fairly tame!

  13. #13 MadScientist
    December 9, 2011

    @Thomas#10: I’ve never seen any books claim that the shot was meant to bounce. The big deal was that these things were huge (shotput size or larger – after all the shotput was originally the projectile of a large bore gun), carried enough energy to smash through shields and tear through a number of people, and could kill at long range. Arrows could also kill at long range but didn’t fare well against shields. If the shot grazes the ground it does skip but it loses an awful lot of energy as well. If people deliberately attempted to make shot skip then that was a dubious tactical decision and not the primary mode of using the weapon. The article also states that the shot was lead – lead deforms easily, does not bounce so well, and is just too damned heavy to be of practical use in a large bore gun. This ancient type of gun typically had bronze or iron shot (although golf-ball sized lead shot was used sometimes, making the gun some sort of huge shotgun). Modern large bore rifled guns do use lead in the projectiles, but the barrels are made with far greater precision and the explosives used are vastly superior to the old black powder.

  14. #14 Greg Laden
    December 9, 2011

    My understanding is that there was about a 20 year period (maybe longer) where bouncing bronze or iron balls shot from ground level (not high ground) with a bounce zone was the preferred artillery strategy. Grape shot fired that way is like having fifty drunk riflemen (which is not bad) shooting at your enemy all at once.

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    December 9, 2011

    My understanding is that there was about a 20 year period (maybe longer) where bouncing bronze or iron balls shot from ground level (not high ground) with a bounce zone was the preferred artillery strategy. Grape shot fired that way is like having fifty drunk riflemen (which is not bad) shooting at your enemy all at once.

  16. #16 Rick Pikul
    December 11, 2011

    There was also a longer period where skipping shot was a common naval cannon technique, as it more reliably struck near the waterline.

    As for Waterloo, it is important to note that the French fielded a significant number of howitzers firing shells. The muddy ground resulted in the shells burying themselves before exploding, muting the explosion and minimizing the amount of shell splinters[1].

    The mud would have had little protective effect against skipping shot. Wellington had positioned his forces on the reverse slope, which itself is a more than effective protective measure.

    [1] At the time shrapnel was a closely held British military secret. No one else had yet figured out to put a load of shot or a coil of notched wire between the charge and the casing.

  17. #17 Glenn Bartley Kansas City Mo
    December 12, 2011

    The mishap with My mythbust team was a acc,I know people and they are very safe minded people,the best humans you whould meet,they would help anybody out if ya asked,I’m glad no one was hurt but if it did they would stand tall and take care of any issue. God Bless the MythBusters Team…

  18. #18 C.R. Thornton
    Overland Park, Kansas
    January 4, 2013

    “a six-inch ball of lead”

    ???

    Muzzle-loading cannons didn’t fire lead balls. Too heavy. They mostly used iron balls.

  19. #19 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2013

    Maybe that explains what went wrong!

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