02 January 2008

ChiefJoeMokwa says: Fun without Guns!

I realize that this post may not exactly fall within the normal purview of this blog. But I've made an executive decision. The answer to the question, "What do traditional Catholics talk about on New Year's Eve?" may surprise you.

In the midst of discussing St. Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways, the Proslogion of St. Anselm, OTG planning, and the travails of children, came the discussion about whether it is possible, or likely, that a falling bullet can kill you after having been shot in the air by a New Year's reveller.

Can it? I seriously doubted it, but the weight of opinion was against me. Of course, regular readers of this space will know that logic is useless in the face of my irrational opinions.

ChiefJoeMokwa (tm) says it can. By the way, have you ever noticed that every local news story mentioning the chief always calls him ChiefJoeMokwa? Not Chief Mokwa, or Joe Mokwa, or Chief Joseph Mokwa, etc., but ALWAYS ChiefJoeMokwa? Like Algore. But I digress.

Here is one person's take on it. Feel free to opine in the comments box.

P.S. We all made it home without any gunshot wounds, conventional or otherwise.

Happy New Year!
UPDATE: From the unofficial Mythbusters site (with lots of redaction-- real bullet nerds can click the link):
Episode 50: Bullets Fired Up, Vodka Myths III

Bullets fired up into the air can be lethal: busted, plausible, and confirmed.

The "all of the above" ruling on the bullets fired into the air myth was a new one for MythBusters. All of their tests showed that if you fire a bullet perfectly straight up into the air, it will not kill you as it will fall down on its side and have too low of a terminal velocity to kill, much like the Penny Drop myth. However, it is very difficult to fire perfectly straight into the air and they even found an international expert in falling bullets who was able to confirm for them that people have died from bullets fired up into the air.
Bullets Fired Up

Myth: A bullet fired up can come down and kill you

...Firing bullets at terminal velocity...

The rigged up an air hose to an aluminum pipe to launch the bullets at terminal velocity (150 ft/s). Their first shot put a good dent in the metal door. Their next target would be a pig's head, just as soon as they got the amount of air pressure tuned correctly. A chronograph was used to measure the speed of the bullet and a solenoid valve was attached to the tube to control the air flow.

They fired bullets from the pipe into the pig's head and recorded it all on the high-speed camera. At 166 ft/s, the 9mm bullet bounced right off of the pig's head. The .30-06 bullet did only slightly better, piercing the skin and then bouncing off.

It was looking like this was going to be busted, but, as it turns out, there is an international expert on falling bullets working in nearby Stanford. The expert, Dr. David G Mohler, told them about a case in Menlo Park where a woman sitting in a lawn chair was struck in the leg by a bullet that was fired into the air 1 1/2 miles away during a 4th of July celebration. Mohler recovered the bullet from her leg and the police were able to match the ballistics to a shooter.
Mohler also told them about a case of an elderly man in Alameda who was talking to his wife underneath a plastic corrugated roof in his carport. His eyes rolled up and his wife thought he was having a stroke. When they got to the hospital they found out there was a bullet in his brain and, unfortunately, he died.

"I know for a fact that bullets fired at a distance, returning to Earth, with terminal velocity, have the ability to kill people." - Dr. Mohler

This contradicted their findings so far, so it was back to the drawing board.

Mohave Desert testing

They figured out what was different from their original assumptions: the bullets in Dr. Mohler's cases weren't fired straight up into the air. They were fired at an angle, which meant that they remained spin-stabilized and on a ballistics trajectory.

For the first time ever, they deemed this one busted, plausible, and confirmed. All of their tests, from the pig's head to the 9mm firing to the balloon, showed that a bullet fired perfectly straight up into the air is not lethal. However, it is also very difficult to shoot perfectly straight up into the air and, with the cases cited by Dr. Mohler, they have confirmed that people have died from bullets falling from the sky.


Mr. Basso said...

A cable television program on the Discovery Channel called Mythbusters had an episode on this very topic. If you are unfamiliar with the program, it is like a group of adult children working on huge budget science fair projects. One of the few gems of television.

You can read about the episode here:

thetimman said...

Thanks Mr. Basso, I heard about the episode from a friend at lunch and posted it just before your comment.

dulac90 said...

Terminal velocity...of course!