Author Topic: Rude of them to attempt this?  (Read 11339 times)

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hobish

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #60 on: December 10, 2011, 04:32:12 AM »
How many times can airplanes crash, before we ban them as too risky? How many times can people have car accidents before we ban driving automobiles, because it could hurt other people?

They took the experiment to a professional explosives range. The people who run that had a choice to say no, if they thought there was a serious risk. How much more "restraint" do you want?

I want them to not fire a gigantic gun in any direction where there are dozens or hundreds of innocent people well within the lethal range of said gun. I wouldn't call that "restraint." Honestly, I wouldn't even call it common sense, because I would think it would be even more basic than that. But apparently, out of all the people involved in the decision to fire a cannon at a target, not a single one of them thought, "What happens if we miss?" That's just idiocy, plain and simple. Especially from people who claim to be knowledgeable about science. "An object in motion tends to stay in motion" and all that. It's kind of famous. This isn't even the first time they've had a cannonball travel much further than they expected. The other time it just went into some empty fields and didn't endanger anyone. I figured that was good safety measures at work, but now I guess it must've been just dumb luck.

I see your point about the people running the range being responsible, but I think the Mythbusters are responsible, too. If you're firing a weapon you shouldn't just rely on what someone else says is safe. You're responsible for what happens when the projectile leaves the barrel. If you don't want that responsibility, don't fire the weapon.

As for cars and planes and such, that's not even comparing apples and oranges. It's more like apples and dryer lint. Cars and planes are tools of transportation that pose dangers that society as a whole has decided are worth the risk. A cannon is a deadly weapon that I'll admit can be used to prove various scientific principles, but in my opinion the Mythbusters folks long since left real science behind in favor of "Let's blow some stuff up." But even so, I don't care how many cannons they fire. None of my business. Just don't point them at anyone before you set them off. The same way you don't drive or fly full speed at people in the hopes that whatever safeguards you've set up will keep you from killing anyone.

It's not comparing apples and oranges. The cannon ball hit a car :)

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RingTailedLemur

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #61 on: December 10, 2011, 04:58:09 AM »
No-one said they didn't take responsibility, Peter.

There is no need to be so sarcastic.

Larrabee

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #62 on: December 10, 2011, 05:10:23 AM »
Genuine question, if this hadn't been done for the TV show but just to satisfy the curiosity of some random individuals, would it still be ok?

Aeris

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #63 on: December 10, 2011, 06:08:55 AM »
Genuine question, if this hadn't been done for the TV show but just to satisfy the curiosity of some random individuals, would it still be ok?

Honestly, isn't  that why scientific experiments are often done? Sure, sometimes they are done for 'the betterment of human civilization', but it's easily arguable that 1) those reasons are sometimes just the rationale that gets you the grant, and not the real incipient motivation and 2) a vague notion of 'the betterment of human civilization' could very well be present with sheer curiosity experiments as well.

For most situations, the reason why the experiment is happening doesn't matter that much to me. As a blanket set of rules, I would say that:

1) all reasonable precautions should be taken - to fail to do so would constitute negligence.*

2) all costs of accidental damage, even absent negligence, should be covered by the party creating the experiment. Insurance coverage must be adequate to cover all reasonably foreseeable risks.

Why the experiment is happening just doesn't matter a ton. Having a really awesome reason is not going to get you off the hook in the vast majority of situations if you are conducting experiments without reasonable precautions. And if you're taking all reasonable precautions, and we haven't as a society decided the activity is so inherently dangerous there is no way to take reasonable precautions, then I don't see why the reason really matters all that much.


*There are some things that are so inherently dangerous, they exist in a separate category where purpose matters: i.e., nuclear power - you're not allowed to just experiment with that on your own, no matter how careful you are. Note that in the US, a lot of things involving a certain level of explosives and firepower are typically *not* considered so inherently dangerous to fall into this category. We allow all kinds of explosives/pyrotechnics/etc for movies, rock concerts, and just plain recreation, etc, as PPs have mentioned.


Now, I don't know if Mythbusters was negligent in this case or not. From what little I've read, it sounds like they weren't. It's possible the site owners/managers were negligent if they agreed to allow their site to be used despite it's unsuitability. If Mythbusters knew, or should have known, that the site was unsuitable, then perhaps they were negligent. I don't know. But I would have to know a lot more about the nature of the site, the nature of the cannon, what information is reasonably determinable about such firepower, etc.


kherbert05

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #64 on: December 10, 2011, 09:51:33 AM »

Cancel science?  Right, because that's definitely what I want to happen.  ::)

The difference this and true science is the intent (well, and the funding) unless the TV show has made any major scientific discoveries or progress that I'm unaware of?

If they want to educate, there are ways that don't involve so much risk, if they want to play or entertain they should get some perspective and scale it right down to experiments where the likelihood of uninvolved parties being seriously impacted is much, much less.

I do put some of the blame on the bomb range management of course.
I hate it when people put this show forward as a great science show. I've watched it a couple of times the formula seems to go like this
1. Disprove myth
2. Make changes so we can either make myth results happen or make a bigger louder explosion
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Shores

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #65 on: December 10, 2011, 10:37:02 AM »
Genuine question, if this hadn't been done for the TV show but just to satisfy the curiosity of some random individuals, would it still be ok?
If the "random individual" had the scientific credit to back up the theory, had the approval of the local police (as MB did), had the approval and setup with the bomb range (as MB did), had an explosives expert onsite overseeing the experiment (as MB did) and had successfully fired this same weapon with the same ball in the same place 50 times (as MB did), and something just went bizarrely wrong this one time and they were absolutely willing to cover damages and are apologetic (as MB are), then yes, it would still be OK in my eyes. Sometimes bad things just happen. But this was not a bunch of 15 year olds setting off Molotov Cocktails in the backyard and it was done with the approval and supervision of dozens of experts and that makes it different in my eyes.
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Shores

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #66 on: December 10, 2011, 10:38:06 AM »

Cancel science?  Right, because that's definitely what I want to happen.  ::)

The difference this and true science is the intent (well, and the funding) unless the TV show has made any major scientific discoveries or progress that I'm unaware of?

If they want to educate, there are ways that don't involve so much risk, if they want to play or entertain they should get some perspective and scale it right down to experiments where the likelihood of uninvolved parties being seriously impacted is much, much less.

I do put some of the blame on the bomb range management of course.
I hate it when people put this show forward as a great science show. I've watched it a couple of times the formula seems to go like this
1. Disprove myth
2. Make changes so we can either make myth results happen or make a bigger louder explosion
And I hate it when people brush the show off in exactly this manner having seen "a couple of" episodes and making a blanket judgment. Ah well, different opinions and all. ;)
Wherever you go.... there you are.

Yvaine

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #67 on: December 10, 2011, 10:40:01 AM »

Cancel science?  Right, because that's definitely what I want to happen.  ::)

The difference this and true science is the intent (well, and the funding) unless the TV show has made any major scientific discoveries or progress that I'm unaware of?

If they want to educate, there are ways that don't involve so much risk, if they want to play or entertain they should get some perspective and scale it right down to experiments where the likelihood of uninvolved parties being seriously impacted is much, much less.

I do put some of the blame on the bomb range management of course.
I hate it when people put this show forward as a great science show. I've watched it a couple of times the formula seems to go like this
1. Disprove myth
2. Make changes so we can either make myth results happen or make a bigger louder explosion

I think the point of the latter--beyond just the desire to blow things up  :D--is to show how extreme the circumstances would have to be for the myth to come true. So, in a totally made-up example, I wouldn't have to be afraid my socks would blow up randomly, because it didn't happen until they soaked them in gasoline and stuffed them with TNT, which is not something I plan on doing with my socks in the normal order of things.

immadz

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #68 on: December 10, 2011, 10:58:27 AM »

Cancel science?  Right, because that's definitely what I want to happen.  ::)

The difference this and true science is the intent (well, and the funding) unless the TV show has made any major scientific discoveries or progress that I'm unaware of?

If they want to educate, there are ways that don't involve so much risk, if they want to play or entertain they should get some perspective and scale it right down to experiments where the likelihood of uninvolved parties being seriously impacted is much, much less.

I do put some of the blame on the bomb range management of course.
I hate it when people put this show forward as a great science show. I've watched it a couple of times the formula seems to go like this
1. Disprove myth
2. Make changes so we can either make myth results happen or make a bigger louder explosion

I think the point of the latter--beyond just the desire to blow things up  :D--is to show how extreme the circumstances would have to be for the myth to come true. So, in a totally made-up example, I wouldn't have to be afraid my socks would blow up randomly, because it didn't happen until they soaked them in gasoline and stuffed them with TNT, which is not something I plan on doing with my socks in the normal order of things.

haha... I love it!


jimithing

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #69 on: December 10, 2011, 11:05:14 AM »

Cancel science?  Right, because that's definitely what I want to happen.  ::)

The difference this and true science is the intent (well, and the funding) unless the TV show has made any major scientific discoveries or progress that I'm unaware of?

If they want to educate, there are ways that don't involve so much risk, if they want to play or entertain they should get some perspective and scale it right down to experiments where the likelihood of uninvolved parties being seriously impacted is much, much less.

I do put some of the blame on the bomb range management of course.
I hate it when people put this show forward as a great science show. I've watched it a couple of times the formula seems to go like this
1. Disprove myth
2. Make changes so we can either make myth results happen or make a bigger louder explosion

Just because something's entertaining, doesn't mean it can't be scientific, and that it's just mindless entertainment. Right, Bill Nye?

567Kate

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #70 on: December 10, 2011, 11:20:28 AM »
XKCD puts it better than I can: http://xkcd.com/397/

While the show may not create results that could be published in a scientific journal, I think they do a lot to encourage the concept of scientific inquiry. Too many people think of science as a list of rules to learn, rather than as the process it is. I'd like to think that Mythbusters encourages people to think about how we know things and how to test our ideas, in addition to making cool explosions.

As for the cannon incident, I actually feel like I don't have enough information to know whether this was a freak accident or they were negligent. The team generally takes all possible safety precautions, which is why viewers of the show are giving them the benefit of the doubt here. I was very surprised to learn that people lived that close to a bomb disposal range, and it is possible that it will come out that the team did not take sufficient precautions for this project. I feel like a lot more analysis of the accident (by an outside source) is needed to know for sure.

And I'll reiterate that I really admire Adam and Jamie for taking responsibility and not throwing any of their crew under the bus.

MariaE

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #71 on: December 10, 2011, 11:26:39 AM »

Cancel science?  Right, because that's definitely what I want to happen.  ::)

The difference this and true science is the intent (well, and the funding) unless the TV show has made any major scientific discoveries or progress that I'm unaware of?

If they want to educate, there are ways that don't involve so much risk, if they want to play or entertain they should get some perspective and scale it right down to experiments where the likelihood of uninvolved parties being seriously impacted is much, much less.

I do put some of the blame on the bomb range management of course.
I hate it when people put this show forward as a great science show. I've watched it a couple of times the formula seems to go like this
1. Disprove myth
2. Make changes so we can either make myth results happen or make a bigger louder explosion

I think the point of the latter--beyond just the desire to blow things up  :D--is to show how extreme the circumstances would have to be for the myth to come true. So, in a totally made-up example, I wouldn't have to be afraid my socks would blow up randomly, because it didn't happen until they soaked them in gasoline and stuffed them with TNT, which is not something I plan on doing with my socks in the normal order of things.

Yup, this exactly. They always say that there are two parts to debunking a myth - replicating the circumstances, and replicating the results  :)

I love the show - it's a favourite of both my DH and me, and I have definitely learned a lot about science from it, so I'm not sure how people can claim it's not an educational science show  ???
 
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wolfie

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #72 on: December 10, 2011, 11:29:25 AM »

Cancel science?  Right, because that's definitely what I want to happen.  ::)

The difference this and true science is the intent (well, and the funding) unless the TV show has made any major scientific discoveries or progress that I'm unaware of?

If they want to educate, there are ways that don't involve so much risk, if they want to play or entertain they should get some perspective and scale it right down to experiments where the likelihood of uninvolved parties being seriously impacted is much, much less.

I do put some of the blame on the bomb range management of course.
I hate it when people put this show forward as a great science show. I've watched it a couple of times the formula seems to go like this
1. Disprove myth
2. Make changes so we can either make myth results happen or make a bigger louder explosion

That's not accurate. They have proved some myths to be true and some to be undetermined. Also some they have abandoned before completion because they decided that the side effects were too dangerous to continue.

RingTailedLemur

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #73 on: December 10, 2011, 01:06:15 PM »
I show clips of Mythbusters to my students.

My favourite was the one which demonstrated the independence of vertical and horizontal motion - a bullet fired horizontally out of a gun and another dropped from the same height, at the same time, hit the ground together.

It's a common thought experiment, but I have never seen it done anywhere else.  Brilliant.

PeterM

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Re: Rude of them to attempt this?
« Reply #74 on: December 10, 2011, 03:58:20 PM »
No-one said they didn't take responsibility, Peter.

There are people on this thread saying it was just an accident, as far as I can tell with no real responsibility at all being assigned. There are other people who certainly seem to be saying that all responsibility lies with the people in charge of the range, not with the Mythbusters.


Quote
There is no need to be so sarcastic.

There's always a need for sarcasm, in my opinion, but I apologize if I went too far.

Honestly, though, I'm having a very hard time understanding why my suggested rule of "Point weapons away from innocent people before firing" is apparently being seen as unreasonable. I'm happy to expand it to include "Or make sure there's some barrier that the projectiles will definitely hit and absolutely cannot penetrate," if that makes people happier.

The only firing ranges I'm at all familiar with follow the latter rule, to give something to compare to. One is set up at the base of a large hill/small mountain, so anything that misses or goes through the targets is stopped by the millions of tons of earth. The other is indoors, fully enclosed by materials that no small arms fire could possibly go through. If people using those ranges somehow managed to fire their weapons in a way that ended up endangering innocent lives, I'd be willing to accept the term "freak accident" when describing the situation and could understand assigning blame more to the owners/designers of the ranges than to those who fired the weapons.

I can't accept the term "freak accident" for the Mythbusters' mistake, because it would've been entirely avoidable if they'd just put more stringent safeguards in place. Seriously, point the cannon away from occupied houses. That's all it would've taken.

Unless - did the cannon somehow shift at least ninety degrees before firing? If it was pointed at nothing but empty fields but somehow fired in a significantly different direction, I'd accept that it can reasonably be called an unforeseeable accident. Though even then I'd hold everyone involved responsible for placing the cannon in such a  way that it was physically possible for it to fire that far away from where it was supposed to. But that would be a much lesser offense, in my opinion.

The article doesn't seem to indicate that's the case, though. They were firing at water containers which apparently had a cinder-block wall behind them. They missed the containers and the cannonball went through the wall and kept going. Given that missing your intended target is an entirely foreseeable result of firing a weapon, and that cannons were invented specifically to penetrate stone walls and damage things on the other side, I still think they were incredibly careless and, yes, rude to conduct the "experiment" the way they did.