Storm Chasing Myths

I’m getting beaten by the surface of this thing.  Like being spanked.
Jamie Hyneman

So let me open by making a snide remark: I have never seen the boys so anxious to hand out “Confirmed” placards as they were in this episode.  Call me a cynic, but I’m not sure they were as unforgiving in this episode as normal.  Case in point: nothing got properly busted up.

For instance, they laid out some requirements for the personal protection shield, such as the need to be resilient against changing wind directions and resistance to debris.  These both seem like reasonable requirements, and yet, they weren’t applied to the Storm Chasers cars…  Haven’t we already learned that the most dangerous part of a  hurricane/tornado is not the wind itself, but flying debris?  Would it have killed them to shoot a wood block (or better yet, some substantial pieces of metal) at the trucks’ windows?  I mean, until you’ve tested those things against some serious debris, calling them tornado-proof really seems like wishful thinking.  And while I believe fending off debris would be their biggest problem, I’m not sure that the TIV-2 (the one with the spikes) would have much luck if the winds flipped 180 degrees.  While the Dominator was more or less sheltered from wind in all directions (as demonstrated when it rotated 90 degrees and skid along the ground), the TIV-2’s backside did not look the least bit aerodynamic.

I liked Jamie’s solution for a personal protection system, and while they subjected it to more tests than they did the cars, I’m not sure it deserved as much praise as it got.  For instance, they are baselining its performance with seeing what Adam withstood while standing.  And they actually have the gall to call this the “control”.  Generally, when you perform a control, you’d like to keep as many other things the same as possible.  So why was Adam standing instead of laying in the prone position?  You’re guess is as good as mine.  They ended up comparing apples to oranges, when talking about the performance enhancement of the personal protection shield.

Last but not least, I wish someone pointed out that Jamie’s little fin at the back was worse than useless.  All it did was spank him, apparently.  I’m not saying that if the wind direction changed, the pod wouldn’t/couldn’t move to face the new oncoming direction, but I will say the fin would not have helped in that endeavor.  Might as well not be included.

In conclusion, for the second time in two new episodes of fall 2010, I have very little math/physics to sink my teeth in.  Let’s hope future new episodes have more quantitative content to think about and analyze.

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2 Responses to “Storm Chasing Myths”

  1. James Pollock says:

    The first problem is going to come when you crawl into your tornado protection tent and the wind ramps up to 180. Whether or not you can turn into the wind, you’re going to have a problem when the wind drops that car that used to be upwind of you, that got picked up at 150, right on your head.

    Why prove that CARS can become flying debris in the first part of the show, then decide you’re debris-proof if you can survive getting hit with a pop-can-sized block of wood?

  2. Ryan says:

    You’re totally right, that the personal protection isn’t “tornado-proof” or “debris-proof” for that matter (though somehow a stray car seems like it needs a stronger word than ‘debris’). But that doesn’t mean it’s useless either. It will provide marginal, additional protection (as demonstrated by the wood projectile test). If you’re unlucky enough to get a car dropped on your head, you’re obviously toast.

    Goes back to my point that in most episodes they play the skeptic; in this episode, they seem more like they’re trying to sell you something (Hello, cross-promotion!).

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