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The Military Science

MythBuster Developing Light-Weight Vehicle Armor 308

Posted by samzenpus
from the using-your-day-job dept.
gearystwatcher writes "MythBusters' Jamie Hyneman has been developing blast-resistant, light-weight armor for use on US military vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan based on his work with show co-host Adam Savage. 'We had a lot of experience in the show dealing with explosives, obviously in ways and situations that are outside the norm. This is very revealing, because when you see something outside the norm you get to see what the boundaries of the phenomenon are,' Hyneman tells The Reg during an interview for the new MythBusters' season."
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MythBuster Developing Light-Weight Vehicle Armor

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @02:24PM (#35736054)

    These always seem to pop up on any Mythbusters thread. No, they're not scientists. They're not pretending to be scientists. And nope, they don't have time to spend years with a research team adjusting for every variable in every experiment in some carefully controlled lab somewhere.

    What they *are* are very knowledgeable laymen, applying basic scientific methodology to fairly straight-foward questions in an entertaining fashion. They bring the basics of scientific testing to the masses. They teach concepts such as skepticism and empiricism to a population that too often relies on hearsay and superstition in their beliefs about the physical world.

    No, they're not scientists. But that doesn't mean they have nothing to teach or that there is no value in their experiments. As the Wright Brothers and Thomas Edison could probably attest, sometimes even a layman has insight to offer.

    • by Svartalf (2997)

      At most, I'd call them Engineers. But, yeah, NO, they're not posing as Scientists. And you'd be right (Must not go for the nasty pun...must not go for the nasty pun...) as you mentioned with the Wrights and Edison.

      • by Barryke (772876)

        Adam's bio on twitter "I play a scientist on TV". And i think he is right. He plays a scientist.

        http://twitter.com/#!/donttrythis [twitter.com]

        • by Rei (128717)

          I think it'd be safe to say that the quality of work they produce is often equivalent to what your average scientific team produces *before* it goes through the peer-review process.

          The TV show is not the equivalent of a journal publishing results, but of the team submitting to a journal. The Mythbuster Forums are the closest thing they have to peer-review. They then often "resubmit" to the journal to address the criticisms.

          It's not a perfect analogy, but it's not too far off. A team of "not on TV" scient

        • Adam did portray a lab technician on CSI once. That would qualify.
      • As an Mechanical Engineer I'd be proud to consider these two my peers.
        • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:16PM (#35736746)

          Agreed, although funny enough, neither of them are "trained" Engineers.

          Jamie has a degree in Russian linguistics and Adam is an acting college dropout. Although they have more lay person building skills than I could ever hope to have. Screw you high school guidance counselor that refused to let me take Welding since I was "college bound"

          The rest of the cast:
          Grant has a BSEE.
          Kari is a sculpting artist.
          Tory just started out as a stage manager running errands and just worked his way up the ranks.
          ------
          *There are a few old guys from my company that started out from the bottom. Starting at the loading bay and some how ending up as master engineer despite having no degree what so ever. It's really rare any more, but it does still happen. Not everyone has the chance or opportunity to go to college to be an engineer.

        • Go back to your toilet, Wolowitz.

          (http://bigbangtheory.wikia.com/wiki/Howard_Wolowitz)

      • They often rely on the scientific method (predict, experiment, observe, repeat) and are very pleased when the outcome is not what they predicted up front. Why not call them scientists? IMHO, scientist or engineer is a false dichotomy.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        You forgot the obligatory xkcd [xkcd.com]

      • by asher09 (1684758) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:10PM (#35736624) Homepage
        Adam and James may or may not be scientists, but I think there are "scientists" that are on the production team for the show. I'm a PhD chemist in the field of medicinal chemistry, and we've had TV documentary crews come in and film something about our work before. When they do the filming, they just merely ask us to pipet some random liquid into another container for no reason other than to provide some "science" looking video footage. So in effect, even though we are "real" scientists, when we're on TV, we're just actors, but there's science behind the info being disseminated. I tend to think of the mythbusters in a similar way.
        I understand that even their methods are not up to the standards of science publication, but even we do try out things in the beginning in a way not too dissimilar to the Mythbuster way (ie not statistically significant, using some mock-up equipment, or whatever) before we fully commit to an experiment or before we purchase the proper equipment that would cost $50,000 or something. So yeah, the Mythbuster show is pretty scientific.
    • No way! (Score:5, Funny)

      by MrEricSir (398214) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @02:35PM (#35736182) Homepage

      Next I bet you're going to tell me that Scientologists aren't scientists!

    • by RsG (809189) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @02:36PM (#35736188)

      I'd be more inclined to call them engineers. Yes, they do experiments, as that's kinda the point of the show, but if you examine their skill sets and techniques, it's pretty obvious what we'd call them if they applied those skills to another field. They make blueprints, run computer simulations, build small scale prototypes, build large scale tests, etc. In particular the "keep at it til something breaks/blows up" approach is engineer thinking.

      So, they're Hollywood SFX guys putting engineering skills to work testing popular science. The fact they're sneaking lessons about control groups and repeatable results into what is ostensibly an entertainment show is an added bonus. The purists who shout "it's not REAL science" are just setting up a "no true Scotsman" argument, since while "science" has a clear meaning "REAL science" does not.

      • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw&yahoo,com> on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @02:41PM (#35736276) Journal

        They use the scientific method to prove or disprove hypotheses. So yeah, they're real scientists, they're just not academics.

        • by RsG (809189)

          See, I think the way some people react to the idea ("no, they're scientists, not engineers") suggest that they think engineering is somehow more vulgar than science.

          I'd call them engineers first and foremost, and call it label of respect. They're also non-academic scientists, since the "scientist" label simply means "someone who does scientific research" but engineering is clearly their focus.

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            I'd say "scientist" is "someone who follows the scientific method" but that's just me.

            • by Miseph (979059)

              I'd say "follows the scientific method" is assumed in "does scientific research"... since, by definition, not doing the former precludes doing the latter.

            • by RsG (809189)

              Eh, I'd include "someone who does scientific research" under "someone who follows the scientific method". You can't call it "scientific" research if you aren't following the scientific method after all. So I'd agree with you, but point out that my criteria implicitly included yours.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mdielmann (514750)

          They use the scientific method to prove or disprove hypotheses. So yeah, they're real scientists, they're just not academics.

          If they were 'real scientists', they'd do more research, and more rigorous testing. Sure, they use some science, but so did the first agriculturalists who determined that x days after the shortest day in the year, in their region, was a safe time to plant crops. A 'real scientist' would have figured out what the minimum soil temperature had to be before seeds could germinate, and how much sun per day was needed, and could use that to give you the optimum time this spring for when to plant a given seed.

          I'l

          • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:23PM (#35736842)

            In virtually every experiment I've seen, they're eyeballing where the light is being reflected

            Yes, just as the soldiers in ancient Greece would have done. Part of the criteria of that experiment that they made clear from the get-go was that it had to work in the real world, using materials and resources available to Archimedes, and be executed in a realistic fashion. They've had two follow-up episodes now where they've given critics a chance to prove themselves (including the MIT students who so ardently claimed they could do it) and none have been able to replicate this supposed accomplishment in anything resembling real world conditions.

            People hold on to the Archimedes myth because they WANT to believe it, not because it really happened. That's exactly the kind of quasi-religious belief that REAL scientists are supposed to question, not accept blindly (as so many Mythbusters critics seem to).

        • They use the scientific method to prove or disprove hypotheses. So yeah, they're real scientists

          They use something that kinda looks like the scientific method - when it doesn't get in the way of making a big boom or doesn't interfere with the entertainment value. When it does, even that fig leaf goes overboard.
           
          No, they're not real scientists.

        • Are QA Engineers scientists, too? These people design and run tests based on scientific principles every day. But they never publish in scientific journals and their titles use the word "engineer" not "scientist."

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And they're so often wrong.

      Forgive me, but I'm going to take the word of the Royal Goddamned Navy on the grevious effect of massive oak splinters, and not a few stuntmen on cable TV.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      In a lot of ways, a big part of their message is that you can do science without being some nerdy guy in a lab coat and goggles. Watching them feels a lot like watching that crazy high school science teacher who would have their students build bottle rockets or potato cannons.

      And of course their show is all built around the basics of the scientific method, even if it never makes it explicit:
      1. Myth = Hypothesis
      2. Experiment to try to replicate the hypothesis.
      3. If it fails, do another experiment to see what

    • by fmobus (831767)

      And again, randall munroe has summarized your post into a comic [xkcd.com].

    • As usual (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @02:48PM (#35736348)

      XKCD does a good job summing it up: http://xkcd.com/397/ [xkcd.com].

      While careful controlled tests are important to science and critical to many discoveries, that is not the core of what science is. The core is that ideas are tested by experiment. It is the process of saying "Hmmm, maybe X causes Y, let's try it and find out!"

      That's the basis of what they do, and the basis of science. The higher level of rigor are important as well, but they aren't the main thing. Scientific thinking and action in every day life does not mean doing a laboratory based double blind study of every little thing. You'd never make it to work if you did that for everything. It does mean holding your idea up to scrutiny and testing them out. Mythbusters helps promote that.

      Also as a side note they are often more rigorous than it appears. If you've watched some outtakes/behind the scenes stuff it turns out that they often do more testing than you see on screen. Again that's not to say they do everything grade-A lab proper, but it can be more than it appears.

      • Moreover, this is about inventing, which is different than being either a scientist or an engineer. It doesn't matter how it works, if you know why it works, or even if you know the specific limits. It just matters that it does work.

        Afterwards, the engineers can descend upon it and find the limits (and probably improve them), the scientists can descend and figure out why it works (and thus apply it to other aspects of life). The inventor only cares that it does the task he or she sees that needs to be ad

      • Re:As usual (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Guspaz (556486) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:22PM (#35736818)

        The rigor also is only useful for negative results. For positive results, rigor is unnecessary; if you aim to prove that something is possible, and you can make it happen, then it's possible.

        The lead balloon is a good example. The myth was that a lead balloon is an impossibility. They built a working lead balloon. Therefore, lead balloons are possible.

        Now, if they had set out to prove that something is possible, and failed to do so, that does not necessarily mean that it's impossible.

        • The rigor also is only useful for negative results. For positive results, rigor is unnecessary; if you aim to prove that something is possible, and you can make it happen, then it's possible.

          2 words: Cold Fusion

    • by Golddess (1361003)
      You seem to have a fairly firm idea of what isn't a scientist. Care sharing your idea on what is a scientist?
      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        I think that would be a more appropriate question for all the "They're not REAL scientists" critics, since they seem to have such a handle on what a REAL scientist is. I can only presume they mean a person with a Ph.D. in a classical science field (chemistry, biology, etc.) actively working in their field.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      An appropriate title would be "engineer" - and no, I don't mean in the 'officious legal meaning of the word', either.

      Scientists deal with the abstract properties of elemental components. The pure scientific process is somewhat boring and repetitive, IMO. Lots of wrote memorization, result interpretation, and dealing in absolute numbers with .0001 variance.

      Engineers typically deal with the results of science to produce a usable, practical device. They use scientific concepts and practices, but it isn't creat

    • One of the two, Jamie i think, was awarded an honorary doctoral degree if im not mistaken. Thats gotta account for something
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        One of the two, Jamie i think, was awarded an honorary doctoral degree if im not mistaken. Thats gotta account for something

        That, and $2 will get you a coffee in most places.

        It's only $1.50 without the honorary degree. ;-)

        • ya, as if that joke isnt old enough.....

          There's never a practical use for a degree, but it does show that someone thinks he is worthy of the distinction.
          • by gstoddart (321705)

            There's never a practical use for a degree, but it does show that someone thinks he is worthy of the distinction.

            Oh there are practical uses for degrees, just not so much the honorary ones.

            Oh, absolutely. The honorary degrees really are intended to recognize you as having done something of significance.

            And really, in terms of showing hands-on engineering and other cool things, I think Jamie likely deserved his honorary degree. Judging by some of the calculations I've seen him pull out, I'd say his practic

    • by ProppaT (557551)

      Trust me, MythBusters look like rocket scientists compared to a lot of people developing this stuff. Sometimes experience and common sense will get you a lot farther than book learning...

    • I enjoy the show. It is entertaining and informative. I work at a software development firm and I still have to deal with co workers that believe that the shows on how they faked the moon landings are interesting and or that artificial sweeteners are biological weapons! Not to mention that Airborne prevents colds! Mythbusters is a nice break from the stupid stuff I see everyday. It is a million times better than the reality TV shows and may actually get some kids interested in Science and engineering.
      So th

    • What they *are* are very knowledgeable laymen, applying basic scientific methodology...

      Sounds like a scientist to me. I mean, isn't that what science is about? Applying scientific methodology to test a theory is pretty much the whole point. The white lab coat is an optional extra.
      • by Americano (920576)

        Pssh. "being a scientist" is clearly about having an advanced degree, securing grant funding, and publishing your results in the journal of the american obscure science academy.

        Every scientist who has ever existed on earth has been a lab-coated, grant-securing, well-published geek. Didn't you get the memo?

    • by mldi (1598123)
      "World English Dictionary
      scientist

      — n
      a person who studies or practises any of the sciences or who uses scientific methods"

      So, what exactly would you consider a "scientist"? It might not be their profession per se but when they are using scientific methods on the show to test out various hypotheses, they are technically "scientists".
    • by DarthVain (724186)

      I agree, what does being a scientist have to do with the price of tea in China.

      Considering that most threats the US military vehicles face these days are from IED's and not standard munitions, this sort of makes more sense. It's not like the guys rigging these IED's are chemical engineers or anything.

  • by Puzzleer (309198) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @02:36PM (#35736200)

    Aren't these the same guys who for several years were shielding themselves from explosions with what they thought was bulletproof plexiglass, until they finally tried shooting it with a gun in an episode on bulletproof glass and only then realized that it wasn't bulletproof at all?

    • by rhook (943951)

      The only true "bullet proof" glass is actually several composite layers layers bonded together.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDSG0I8TFdk [youtube.com]

    • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:10PM (#35736614) Homepage

      There is no such thing as "bulletproof glass". Usually, what you have is a combination of two things:

      * a polymer and glass layered sheet
      * of a specific thickness and ply count

      For instance, most 'bulletproof glass' is just rated for pistol calibers (as I believe bank teller glass tends to be). Rifle calibers will punch right through. I think you'll need something close to 6" or so to withstand a shot or two from a 30 caliber, high velocity rifle (eg. think mostly anything from WWII, 7.62 NATO, 7.62R, etc.). A .50 Browning is likely to put a nice 'little' pock in such a plate. I wouldn't stand on the other side voluntarily.

      And, with all frangible materials, with repeated impacts they will start to be less effective at fulfilling their role.

      I believe there's a new polymer/glass/transparent aluminum glass out there, too, but they're all variations on the same theme.

      • Yeah, this is what most people don't realize.

        There is a hell of large difference between different calibers and even different types of ammunition at the same caliber.

        Saying something is bulletproof only means something if you specify against what projectile AND what projectile velocity.

        You can get away with much thinner than 6" for .30 cal, but it's still a fairly thick piece of armor.

      • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:52PM (#35737198) Homepage

        For instance, most 'bulletproof glass' is just rated for pistol calibers (as I believe bank teller glass tends to be).

        As 'pistol calibers', and the resultant energy, tend to vary wildly - that's pretty much a meaningless statement. But most teller glass tends to be rated for rifles anyway.
         

        Rifle calibers will punch right through. I think you'll need something close to 6" or so to withstand a shot or two from a 30 caliber, high velocity rifle (eg. think mostly anything from WWII, 7.62 NATO, 7.62R, etc.).

        Nope - as little as two inches [protectivestructures.com] or so will stop those kinds of rifles. (UL level 8 [sheltersdirect.com].) You're a decade or two behind state-of-the-art.

    • They never said it was "bullet proof" is was there to protect them from flying debris. When the show got enough money to start playing with high velocity stuff they had to change what they were using and one of the hosts decided to make light of it on the air.
  • ... composed entirely of water heaters with the safety features defeated.

    --
    BMO

  • Based on the quotes in the article, we can assume that Heyman "saw some s*** blow up, and now is an expert on blast propagation, terminal ballistics, and high strain rate phenomenon."

    • He had Obama on his show in the Fall. Think that campaign PR was free?

    • by djdanlib (732853) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @04:17PM (#35737464) Homepage

      Well, you never know, they might actually stumble upon something valid. In fact, they might have already discovered something, and the press release could be lagging significantly behind the development like it does so often with military developments.

      They have practical experience:
      * blowing stuff up in creative but specific ways using improvised explosive devices, of qualities equal to or exceeding what you'd see in the field
      * instrumenting the entire scenario for data analysis later in such a way that the instrumentation is not destroyed
      * preventing other stuff from getting destroyed by said explosion

      You can spend all day failing to come up with a material with the right properties no matter which angle you attack the problem from. Sure, you could model the physics until your brain leaks out of your ears, and you can also waste inordinate time and materials testing via a "Okay, how about now? Now? Now?" methodology. In the end, you can get similar results by calculation or experiment. Check out Damascus steel, for example - we haven't completely figured that out yet, and we certainly can't reproduce it, but people were making it and you can believe they weren't using modern science to design it. I do believe in the value of science, but it doesn't always need to trump experience.

      The guys who experience the effective improvised explosives in the field don't make it back to tell you how it was built, ya know? :(

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