Like the people cheering at about :25 into this video, I'm a sucker for dramatic explosions. This one comes from Texas, where the transportation department blew up an old bridge in the city of Marble Falls on March 17th. Also, apparently, it's warm enough in Texas that multiple gentlemen could watch a bridge explode from the comfort of their jet skis.
During the storm a couple of nights ago, we heard an almighty thunderclap and our dogs came dashing into the house. Once the rain ebbed and we went outside, we found this scene just around the corner: a wall apparently blown to pieces, with cinderblock chunks thrown as far as 40 or 50 feet. It seems too far for a plain old wall collapse. Could that have been caused by the lightning strike? If so, how? Steam pressure from the waterlogged bricks being suddenly superheated, like a tree strike?
Plinian eruptions are named after Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder, who wrote about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 and died during said eruption, respectively. This is one of several different types of volcanic eruptions, but it's also one of the most iconic. In a Plinian eruption, a column of magma, gas, and ash shoots straight up, with the gas and ash reaching all the way up into the stratosphere. These are the big, explosive eruptions, with mushroom clouds and rains of rocks and boulders.
Matt Kuchta, geology professor at the University of Wisconsin Stout, recently recreated a classic Plinian eruption using a 32-gallon trash can filled with water, 100 rubber ducks, and some liquid nitrogen. In slow motion, you can see the column of water and ducks rise straight up, fan out at the top, and fall back down to Earth. Just imagine the damage if all the ducks were boulders, and you get the picture.
LA's Museum of Contemporary Art invited the city to the opening party for Cai Guo-Qiang's "Sky Ladder" exhibition, the highlight of which was a massive explosion of rockets and other fireworks, titled “Mystery Circle.” Thousands of people filled the museum grounds for the big event.
Several introductory speakers (including the artist) described what was about to happen, but I don’t think anyone was anticipating the effect of 40,000 rockets launched directly at us. The light, heat, and concussive force were terrifying and beautiful.
Cai Guo-Qiang has gotten so much attention lately that he is starting to get endorsements, including a limited-edition Lomography signature camera. I'm a crappy photographer, but that didn't deter the nice people at Lomography from lending me a Cai Guo-Qiang camera to document the explosion event and the exhibition. The camera is really neat and I enjoyed messing around with analog settings - it's harder and much more rewarding than slapping an Instagram filter on a digital image. Here’s the best shot I got of the installation, which includes a crop circle hanging from the ceiling:
Cai Guo-Qiang is making some of the most interesting and beautiful art of our time. He’s been a prominent artist around the world for twenty years or so. I’m embarrassed to admit that I knew nothing about him until just last year when a friend posted photos of his installation at Deustche Guggenheim in Berlin from 2006 on Facebook. The piece that struck me is called Head On and it fills a large room with a pack of 99 life-size wolf replicas leaping into a plate glass panel. It’s incredibly moving and gorgeous.
Cai Guo-Qiang: Head On (2006). Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, Germany. Photo by Hiro Ihara and Mathias Schormann
So, I jumped at the chance when MOCA announced that Cai Guo-Qiang would be doing a series of paintings with imagery produced by exploding gunpowder here in LA and that the museum needed volunteers to assist on the project. I’m not sure why they accepted my application - I know they had far more interest than available slots, and most of my fellow volunteers were artists or art students. But I got lucky. Here’s what happened.
In this video, you'll learn how to use an ultraviolet LED to kickstart a chemical reaction capable of sending a cork flying halfway across a lecture hall. It's a hazardous science demonstration! Hooray!
Quick note: The sound quality gets a little sketchy at times. If you click on the CC option in the lower-right corner of the player window you'll be able to read the English subtitles.
The protective suits worn by bomb diffusers in "The Hurt Locker" are real, right down to those fabulously popped collars, and they really do save lives. The secret is all in the materials, which provide a barrier against both shockwaves and shrapnel.
The overpressure wave is actually the more dangerous of the two. A microsecond after a bomb goes off, the explosion compresses the surrounding air and blows it outward in a lightning-fast shockwave that ripples through clothing and literally flattens internal organs.
The suit's rigid outer armor layer, the first and most important defense against this threat, is composed mainly of aramids: high-tech synthetic materials that are "strain-rate sensitive." In other words, "the faster something hits them, the harder they become," says Borkar. (Kevlar is simply the brand name of an aramid manufactured by DuPont.) The entire front-facing portion of the suit is reinforced from head to toe with hardened composites of two or more aramids, optimized for strength and lightness. This rigid layer can literally reflect or bounce some of the overpressure energy away from the technician, while also repelling flying fragmentation.
And that's only the first layer of defense. The suits have three total. The downside to all that protection: Weight. Each suit adds an extra 60 or 70 pounds, thus making it even more impressive that Staff Sgt. Jeremy Herbert, the explosive ordnance technician team leader for Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, has run a mile, wearing his suit, in nine minutes and 58 seconds.
Pittsburgh is home to Berger and Green, a law firm specializing in injury cases. Its recent television advertisements are tasteful, white-backgrounded affairs. As you can see here, this was not always the case. Larry Green is angry because you have not received all the money the law allows. Ecce YouTube.