back to article Mythbusters cannonball ‘myth-fires’

If non-US readers have ever wondered how far the Alameda County bomb disposal range (beloved of Discovery Channel show Mythbusters) is from homes, it seems it’s at least close enough for a misdirected cannonball to hit a house. And then another house, a hill and a car. Mythbusters hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are red- …


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  1. Manta Bloke

    Epic can't wait to see this one :)

    Glad no one was hurt.

  2. Winkypop Silver badge


    How lucky can you get?

    As no one was injured, it did make me laugh.

    1. Thomas 4
      Thumb Up


      Exploding science is the best kind of science. Looking forward to this episode.

      1. PaulW

        Unfortunately they have said that they are going to dump this whole experience on the cutting room floor. Which is a shame since its probably up there with the best things they have done.

        1. Urh

          Hang on...

          "And yes, they still intend to screen the episode the cannon was built for." To me, that implies that the balls-up in question is going to be shown. Now that it's been reported, they'd be hurting their ratings if they *didn't* show it.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          ..."its probably up there with the best things they have done."

          Except the time when they made a cast of Kari's behind !

  3. Thomas 18
    Thumb Up


    That's why you put a sand bunker behind your targets. Hope they get more than a slap the wrist for this.

    1. Ragarath

      From the article

      It sounds as if they had a load of water barrels instead of sand, but they missed them too.

      1. laird cummings

        Anyone who knows ANYTHING about smoothbore cannon knows that solid spherical projectiles WILL skip and bounce - Waterbarrels are not enough - you need a trap, like the afore-mentioned sand - to prevent just this kind of thing from happening. Clearly, the Myth-busting crew did NOT do their homework.

        Myth: Blasted.

        1. Matt 95


          I guess I'm puzzled as to why they were firing east, since there's MORE than adequate distance from housing when firing north.

          (The Alameda Bomb Range is a little over a mile from where I live, I see their white truck from time to time)

        2. Graham Marsden

          @laird cummings

          If you'd done your homework (or even have read the article) you'd have noticed that they were a) testing the velocity they could get from a home made cannon, b) had water barrels *and* an earth berm behind them.

          What appears to have gone wrong is that the velocity was much greater than they had anticipated, consequently the trajectory of the cannonball was too high, going over the water barrels and then skipping off the berm, causing it to be lofted towards the houses.

          It's easy with hindsight to think that they should have aimed it with a lower trajectory etc, but given that the officials at the Alameda County Bomb Range let them fire it (which I doubt very much they'd have done if they thought this could happen) this is clearly just an unfortunate series of events rather than a lack of "homework".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            sorry it is still lack of homework

            ballistics is a simple, ancient and refined art. Chamber pressures for given amounts of any type of commercial powder are all published and available. Bore size, powder charge, barrel length, projectile area and projectile mass were all known and critical to both understanding whether the breech would explode and will tell you almost exactly how fast the ball will be going when it exits the muzzle.

            Once you know the muzzle velocity, barrel angle and the mass of the projectile, it's simple high school math to plot trajectory and initial impact point, minus an inch or two out because of ball friction and to the left or right depending on wind speed and time aloft. Hell, the bigger the ball the closer to mathematical ideal it gets!

            A given size charge, in a given size breech, of a given powder type and set cannon dimensions will give you very similar results every time. It's not rocket science :P

            hell that's what the first computers were used for, generating artillery tables. Any first year physics student should have done labs on this.

            Scrapheap Challenge (Junkyard Wars) even did this-homemade cannons where points were awarded on accuracy and knockdown results to a cinderblock wall.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              A for Physics, F for Engineering

              Rifling & miniballs were invented because of the nasty tendency for smoothbores to not fly in the direction that the gun or cannon was aimed in. Even a 1 deg error in firing angle makes a huge difference past 100m.

              But they wouldn't have taught you that in your first year physics classes.

          2. laird cummings

            @Graham Marsden

            You have just conclusively demonstrated that you don't have enough knowledge to be allowed to comment on this suhbject.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          or alternatively..


          my 1" smoothbore cannon can throw a 1 inch lead ball for over a mile and it definitely "bounces" rather than stick in dirt at anything resembling a shallow angle. It'll skip off of water at less than 45 degrees. Even Hollywood gets the bounce right every now and then. Gibson's "The Patriot" wasn't too far off with the effects of cannon on ranked infantry.

          Anonymous because, even tho it's a smoothbore muzzleloader and technically legal in 50 states, California legislators are probably working on a ban right now because of this. "Don't let a tragedy go to waste".

        4. Nameless Faceless Computer User

          Every episode I've seen involving weapons and explosions featured experts on-hand to provide guidance. This is probably a requirement of their insurance carrier, who is now paying the bills and asking, "Who approved this experiment?"

  4. Chris Miller

    Picture here

    Is it just this one, or are all US houses constructed from chicken wire, bin bags and hair clippings?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @chris miller

      "Is it just this one, or are all US houses constructed from chicken wire, bin bags and hair clippings?"

      Outside of the big cities it does seem that not many americans or canadians have ever heard of that new fangled invention called a "brick". So they build their houses out of plywood and other cheap rubbish and then look all bemused when they get blown down in a strong wind or burnt to the ground from one spark in a forest fire. The fact that the chimney is always left standing should give them a clue to how to rebuild but it never does.

      1. /\/\j17

        Chicken / Egg

        Most people in the US AREN'T bemused when their plywood and spit house gets burnt down by a firest fire or blown away by a hurricane/tornado.

        In large swaths of the US it's not IF you property could be caust in the local natural disaster of choice but WHEN. As such when it happens most Americans are just happy they only had to pay the insurance for/cost fo rebuilding a plywood and spit house, not the cost of insuring and rebuilding a brick one.

        In the UK people don't really understand what a hurricane (for example) is. Hell, many people in the South East of England still think Michael Fish was wrong in 1987 when he said there wasn't a hurricane coming but he wasn't. There WASN'T a hurricane, it was just a bit windy with some gusts at hurricane force on the Beaufort scale. That's quite different from a hurricane where it's not the gusts that are hurricane force but the whole thing.

      2. Pet Peeve

        There are lots and lots of brick homes in America. Bear in mind that this one is less than a mile from a BOMB RANGE. Not gonna be a palace.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          "In large swaths of the US it's not IF you property could be caust in the local natural disaster of choice but WHEN"

          Hmm , I wonder if that has something to do with what its built of? Perhaps if built of something non flammable and strong it might not burn/blow down. You never know!

          "In the UK people don't really understand what a hurricane (for example) is."

          Tell that to the people in the hebrides where winds can consistently top 100mph for hours at a time

          in a winter storm. And guess what - they don't build their houses from plywood. Perhaps because they've got a brain.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            no one builds them like the Cheops

            There are areas where brick is impractical to use (or any other heavy material) due to the composition of the ground. You can lay a foundation down, but when you're close to an underground water system and have sand for a lawn, you make due in order to live in that area. I live in South Carolina and it's usually sand or clay. We also have people living in flood zones because they decided it was a good idea to build on swampland. There was a reason it was swampland, much like there is a reason that the Misssissippi hasn't maintained the same channel over time. Really no different than when I lived in Hawaii. The colonial houses had small windows and low ceilings like their northern U.S. counterparts. It was one big heat trap. My favorite was a book on how to put out a burning woman (Victorian style clothing while cooking in said homes by a big fireplace) at one of the mission house tours.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Often poorly insulated too, even though they have much harsher winters. Noticed that when I visited relatives in Canada.

      4. Efros


        However most locales would have to bring the bricks from far away as brickyards are relatively rare in the US. Think importing bricks from Warsaw to build your house in Cambridge. Solution use local materials.

        1. Matt 95


          Harsher winters? Bay Area?

          What type of harsh winter are you referring to?

          I've never worn anything more than a light jacket while living in the same area as this 'cannon' house. Winter is pretty weak here.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            harsh winters?

            dude harsh winters all the time in the Bay gets all the way down to 33 degrees F sometimes. Harshes my buzz when I gotta go outside to smoke.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Have you noticed how big the forests are in Canada..?

      6. kain preacher

        California has lots of earth quakes that crack brick. Places in the US were you have hurricanes or tornadoes you find the houses are made of brick.

        1. Jay Clericus

          Recall seeing photos and movie clips of american disasters where tornadoes have hit neighbourhoods and nothing but wooden scraps are left :( they rebuild in wood and get blown down in a few years or burnt in a fire.

          Have seen the aftermath of a tornado in the uk, might be a couple of roof structures blown to pits, the rest of the houses maybe a few roof tiles and not a lot else

          Was not aware that the californian towns where they have skyscrapers were all made from wood, technology exists to make modern structures earthquake resistant :)

          1. Olafthemighty


            True enough, but our tornadoes are shit.

            1. Andrew Oyston 1


              And there's me thinking it's just Lewis who hates the Tornado :-)

          2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

            Jay, the strongest tornado recorded in the UK was no more than an F0. That's the smallest they bother to record. Typically we'll get one or two a year at most.

            A minor F0 will do a little bit of damage. Suck off a few tiles, blow over a wall maybe.not much more.

            Now, think about how many tornadoes the US gets in a year. Most of those will be greater than F1, and a good (and dangerous) number will be F5, the quarter-mile wide monsters that destroy everything in their path. An F5 would turn a brick terrace into a neat pile of rubble on the other side of the street, turn every tree on the road upside down and pile all the cars on top of each other just for fun.

            Compare like with like.

            Now, as for why we use brick, I'll tell you: weather and resources. We're a wet country and we have lots and lots of clay, whereas the south-western united states is a dry country that has lots of timber. In cool, wet environment the most appropriate materials are those that keep out moisture, require little maintenance to avoid rain damage, and which still provide decent insulation. Brick fulfils all three requirements very well.

          3. wayne 8

            And that earthquake tolerant technology suitable for a multi-mega-million dollar large tower is not financially prudent for a house to hold one family.

          4. Jaybus

            Having experienced tornados twice in my life in the southern US, I assure you that not all tornados are created equal. Only an underground bunker could possibly have survived the F5 that went through Birmingham, Alabama. After all, it isn't the wind speed in excess of 350 km/h so much as the minivan striking the house at 150 km/h.

      7. laird cummings


        Appropriate technology for appropriate local conditions.

        Brick construction is slow and expensive, and in the Bay area, inappropriate. That's earthquake country, which is a disaster for brick homes. Unless you LIKE having to rebuild major portions of your house every few years..? Most folks don't.

        Frame homes go up fast, are generally resistant to most minor quakes, and any damage from same is usuallty easily patched. If a major quake comes along, a frame house is much less likely to crush the occumants to death when it comes down - indeed, it's less likely to come all the way down at all. Brick, on the other hand, can be *counted* on to come down and kill a few folks.

        Also: with the cost of housing - and the need for rapid expansion of housing - in the Bay area, brick is doubly a bad idea. Those homes are owned by average wage earners, not Vanderbilts.

        The chickenwire is the anchor matrix for the plaster stucco - any home builder or normally experienced person would recognize it, and stucco is a *very* appropriate technology for the area - cheap, effective, and easily repaired. Indeed, look at how *little* damage was done by a 30lb cannonball: small holes, easily patched by anyone with basic carpentry skills. No splintering, no structural damage, just a small neat hole. Brick, ont the other hand, would have shattered, and cast fragments and projectiles all about, greatly increasing the risk of injury, and have required an extensive rebuild by skilled (and expensive) tradesmen.

        IOW, you have NO bloody idea what you're talking about.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          "Brick construction is slow and expensive, and in the Bay area, inappropriate. That's earthquake country, which is a disaster for brick homes."

          Is it? How come the non prefab concrete city centre isn't levelled every time there's a tremor then?

          "Also: with the cost of housing - and the need for rapid expansion of housing - in the Bay area, brick is doubly a bad idea. Those homes are owned by average wage earners, not Vanderbilts"

          Average wage earners in europe manage to afford brick. Are you lot so hard up in the US that you can only afford cheap plywood? Do your cars have Flintstone style holes in the floor to put your feet through as well?

          "Brick, ont the other hand, would have shattered, and cast fragments and projectiles all about, greatly increasing the risk of injury, and have required an extensive rebuild by skilled (and expensive) tradesmen."

          So your killer argument against brick houses is the danger of shrapnel from someone firing a cannonball at it is it? Following that line of argument I might argue that brick is probably more pirate cutlass proof than wood.

          "IOW, you have NO bloody idea what you're talking about."

          Don't I? Oh well, you carry on enjoying living in your medieval construction method home. Meanwhile I'll enjoy the benefit of a double brick wall and proper insulation.

          1. Tinker Tailor Soldier

            Former Brick-loving South African...

            Which I am. Turns out that in the US, sky-scrapers are built out of steel and the masonry is cladding. Steel flexes nicely and withstands quakes. In downtown Seattle in the pissy little 6.8 Nisqually quake, all of the old brick buildings rained their bricks down on the streets. They don't build those anymore.

            Smaller buildings might be reinforced concrete, but never brick, except as cladding.

            Now it's still a puzzle to me why Floridians build with wood. That's just economics. You used all your wood to build ships to form an empire.... thanks for that BTW as one of the remnants.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            What are you on about?

            You've forgotten (or never heard of) the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The city was built almost entirely of brick, and the earthquake transformed it into a huge heap of rubble.

            Current large buildings on San Francisco are NOT simply concrete... They have massive steel internal reinforcement and rest on foundations composed of metal springs, or on rollers to permit the building to withstand earthquakes of as much as 8 on Richter's scale. As you might imagine, this is very expensive and not practicable for houses.

            Indeed wood frame houses are as safe as , well, houses in a actively seismic area. Construction of houses in California requires the use of plywood or Oriented Strand Board (OSB) sheathing with specific metal reinforcement as stiffening for the frame. The State studies the effects of major earthquakes on various construction methods, and the cannonballed house's construction was no doubt appropriate for the regulations in effect at the time of construction.

            Pray your massive brick walls never encounter a good shake test!

          3. wayne 8

            > Is it? How come the non prefab concrete city centre isn't levelled every time there's a tremor then?

            Scan this:


          4. southern skies

            Bricks don't stay up in EQs

            Check out Central Christchurch (NZ) for what happens when you have a lot of unreinforced masonry around. Half our central city has been or is being demolished so it doesn't kill anyone else.

            In EQ zones, I would far rather live in a timber framed house. It won't fall down and kill you in your bed when a mag 7.2 EQ hits at 4:35am.

            Brick buildings came down all over Chch on Feb 22 and caused a lot of the deaths and injuries here that day. Mortar doesn't hold bricks together very well when it is subjected to a lot of seismic shaking. Additonal reinforcing is required to add strength to all types of masonry and concrete structures.

            How about, before criticising what you don't understand, you should accept that building methods differ around the world because the local conditions differ too.

            What is obvious and useful in the UK may not be so useful in other places!

      8. This post has been deleted by its author

      9. Matt 95


        Heh, brick does very poorly here on the Hayward faultline.

      10. Anonymous Coward

        @ Boltar

        Hmmmm, outside of the UK, there are these not-so-newfangled natural disasters called "earthquakes", and a brick building is the worst thing you can possibly be inside of or around in a quake. So people build their houses out of cheap rubbish like plywood that flexes in an earthquake instead of literally shaking apart at the seams like brick and mortar does. The fact that an disproportionately high number of residential earthquake deaths occur because brick chimneys collapse and fall through the roof onto occupants or onto people standing outside should give you a clue on how to build in an earthquake zone, but it probably won't.

        (This is especially true considering that the Alameda County test range is probably 5 miles from the Hayward fault and about 25-30 miles from the San Andreas fault.)

        1. Don Casey

          Closer yet

          I believe the Calavaras fault is the closest to Dublin... maybe a mile or two.

          Has been known to generate magnitude 6 quakes.

      11. Scott Manley

        This is earthquake country however.

        In earthquakes brick buildings fall down.

        'The fact that the wood buildings are always left standing should give them a clue to how to rebuild but it never does.'

      12. Anonymous Coward

        If ignorance is bliss...

        Read the article, mate. This story occurred in California. Bricks do not stay in a convenient pile during or after an earthquake.

        The reason for the chicken wire is that it is common to use stucco or adobe in hot climates.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You mean like most British houses are build after 17th century designs and from shoddy materials (simple bricks, plasterboard and chipboard)?

      1. Bluenose


        You're lucky my parents house is made of concrete slush which was poured between two planks to make the walls. When you strip of the plaster you can see the street through the air holes, 1960's quality workmanship at its best.

        1. NomNomNom

          "Bricks??? You're lucky my parents house is made of concrete slush which was poured between two planks to make the walls."

          *Concrete* slush??? You're lucky to have such a luxury, our walls were filled with paper mache and we had to hold the roof up with our own hands

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wood here

      Here they're made of wood*, covered with a layer of styrofoam insulation then protected with plastic siding. Older roofs are tiled, but now commonly they're made of aluminum**.

      * This is the Pine Tree State and they weren't kidding when they gave it that nickname.

      ** When in Rome, you know. Well mostly not Rome, since that's just a small town with less than 1,000 people.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. sisk

      Plywood's cheap and plentiful. Brick is expensive and difficult to get in a lot of parts of the US. Also, in California plywood homes tend to outlast brick ones. I think it has to do with flexing instead of breaking in earthquakes.

      1. John Gamble

        Not to mention that brick is not as strong as people here seem to be implying. It doesn't stop cars from entering houses; a loose cannonball shouldn't have any trouble punching through either.

    6. Mike Richards

      Timber-framed homes are standard in much of the US and very common in the Nordic countries. Built and maintained properly they are nice to live in - and much cheaper than the brick boxes in the UK.

    7. HCV

      Brick in quakeland

      The day after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, I drove through a neighborhood 10 or so miles from the epicenter, with lots of houses made of "chicken wire", basically the same construction as the house in question.

      They all withstood the quake nicely, except that many of them had piles of reddish-pink dust next to them that used to be their brick chimneys.

    8. Bluenose

      Additional protection

      is provided by elastoplast or sticky back plastic I believe

    9. Matt 95


      Californians, somewhat due to state history seem to like Stucco. Personally I can't stand the stuff.

    10. Kevin 6

      not all

      I can say my house is made of brick, along with 90% of the buildings I've seen traveling through the city so its not all ;)

      As others have said brick is nice vs high winds, and such but very BAD to earthquakes. Few years back we had a very minor earthquake (2nd I can remember in 30 years). It was so minor I mentioned that it felt like we had an earthquake, and generally they said I was nuts till they turned the news on a little later where it was said we had one....

      Afterwards we found out the house had well over $8,000 in damage to the brick work from it shifting that wasn't covered by insurance cause it wasn't immediately noticed till we noticed leaks when it was raining.

    11. Franklin

      "Is it just this one, or are all US houses constructed from chicken wire, bin bags and hair clippings?"

      I spent most of my adult life in southwest Florida, where (for hurricane reasons) houses are built from cinder blocks that are strapped down to the ground quite tightly. Not only are they proof against hurricanes, they tend to hold up quite nicely to just about anything else you can throw at them. Fire, tanks, zombie apocalypse...

      When I moved to Oregon two years ago, I was horrified and appalled to see houses made of plywood and, I don't know, old newspapers or something. My girlfriend's been mocking me relentlessly about it, but every time I walk upstairs I can't help but feel if I lean against the wall the whole damn house will fall down. (Wood? Really? Who builds houses out of WOOD?)

      She did, however, make one valid point: Rigid brick or cinder block houses don't fare well in earthquakes, which we get in Oregon in place of hurricanes. Brick or block houses tend to fracture, or so I'm told, whereas wood houses are flexible enough that they just kinda sway a bit.

      Personally, I still feel safer in a house that isn't made of wood.

    12. LateNightLarry

      Picture here...

      In areas prone to earthquakes, such as most of California, brick construction is generally not used because the bricks tend to separate when the walls are shaken sufficiently strongly. Building codes in CA do allow brick, but it has to be tied together with rebar or other metal devices to keep the bricks from separating. The owners of many old structures which were built of brick or stone are being required to retroactively reinforce the walls (can be VERY expensive) to prevent them from falling down, or if the walls cannot be reinforced, they owners may be required to tear the building down... The law applies to buildings with historical significance as well...

      In the last relatively significant earthquake in California's Napa Valley, entire neighborhoods saw their brick or "slumpstone" (looks like adobe bricks but made of cement) chimneys badly damaged or destroyed because they weren't reinforced.

      Many houses, maybe the majority, are built with plywood shear walls, then the plywood is covered with chicken wire and then the wire is covered with stucco... That's probably what Chris is seeing.

      Beer, cause it's the closest icon available to a wine glass.

  5. Field Commander A9

    Typical Mythbuster

    This is what they do afterall.

  6. James 51

    Wonder how big the disclaimer, 'don't try this at home kids' is going to be. Just glad no one was hurt and at least they're doing the right thing about putting people up in hotels and paying for the damage. Can't wait to see that episode.

    1. M Gale

      With a bit of luck...

      ...they'll screen the misfire and the resultant damage/mayhem and end it with "...and this is why!"

    2. Ian Michael Gumby

      Probably same sized disclaimer, but will have a segment that talks about what could happen if anything went wrong.

      They were lucky. Had someone gotten hurt the show would have been cancelled.

      1. Jaybus

        I wonder if this f-up has triggered interest from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. They may not be out of hot water, even though nobody was injured (this time).

  7. Neil B

    They've come very close to doing real damage before now, I'm just surprised it's taken this long! Still, I'm sure they're very glad for all the insurance that they continually moan about having to get.

  8. HP Cynic

    So that's what the comic/diagram on Reddit was about :)

  9. Anonymous Coward 101

    Always good to have it confirmed...

    ...It's not just me that screws up at work.

  10. Tony Barnes

    Lucky sods!

    Seriously, that could easily have killed folk, would be amazed if they're not hauled up in front of a court

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This isn't a toy

      Was a less populated region unavailable? How much intelligence does it take to do this in an area devoid of civilian population with an radius, AT A MINIMUM, of the firing distance? I'm surprised they weren't arrested for reckless endagerment or destruction of property, but they're a commercial enterprise, so the laws are applied differently. They're just extremely lucky they didn't kill or injure anyone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RE: This isn't a toy

        So your suggesting they should have gone to a bomb range or something?

        1. admiraljkb

          In fairness, a civilian bomb range probably wasn't the spot to do cannon testing. The Dahlgren Proving Grounds comes to mind for somewhere that is properly setup to handle cannon testing. There probably is a closer Army or Naval facility that is setup to handle cannon testing of the type they were doing.

          1. laird cummings

            NAWS China Lake comes to mind.

            Over 4,500 square kilometers in which to lose a stray cannonball...

      2. Alan 6

        They were at a bomb disposal range, as stated in the article.

      3. laird cummings

        When you get right down to it, mombs don't send fragments all that far. The range is well-designed - as a BOMB RANGE. As an artillery range, it's *entirely* inadequate.

        The problem, from the production crew's perspective, is, real artillery ranges are 1) far away, 2) hard to gain access, and 3) expensive to operate. So they cut corners massively, instead. The proper techinque, in the case of using the bomb range, would have been to built a shot-trap - a virtual cage of sand or other dense, soft material that could stop any concievable projectile at any concievable angle the cannon could fire. But that costs money, too - Again, corners were cut.

        The Mythbusting crew suffered from arrogance and ignorance - Arrogance that they think they have enough knowledge and smarts to defeat random chance, and ignorance of artillery - They didn't bother to consult *real* experts in smoothbore artillery, or if they did, they disregarded their advice.

        A six-pound cannon of Napoleonic or American Civil War vintage has a MAXIMUM range of approximately 4000 yards - just a bit less than 4 kilometers. Their 30-pounder..? Who would know, without some serious testing? Which, of course, they didn't do properly - nor did they employ the right kind of people to DO that testing.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Who is going the arrest them?

        Folks from the county sheriff's department were observing and approved what they were doing -- the county sheriff's department is the law enforcement agency, and it operates the bomb range where the canon was being tested.

      5. LateNightLarry

        This isn't a toy...

        There are not very many "less populated" areas within a reasonable driving distance of the Mythbusters office, and the ones that are nearby are generally unsuitable for other reasons, such as tidal marshes, wetlands or other problems with the neighborhood. To actually get to a sufficiently unpopulated area, they would probably have to drive to somewhere in Nevada or Utah... say the Bonneville Salt Flats, over five hundred miles.

        Beer, cause it's the closest thing to a glass of wine.

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      @Tony Barnes et al ...

      ... there seem to be a lot of Elfin Safety bods on this strand today. For $deities' sake, why so serious? Shit happens, no-one was hurt, laugh and carry on - I certainly would if I was one of the affected parties!

  11. AndrueC Silver badge

    Well there's yer problem :)

  12. phuzz Silver badge

    Given some of the crazy stuff they've done over the years, it's amazing that nothing has gone seriously wrong before now.

    Even now, when a homemade cannon shoots over a hill, through a house and destroys a car, somehow no one is injured.

    Well, except that time Tory tried to jump a bike...

  13. ~mico

    Myth Busted...

    The post is required and must contain post

  14. Dave Bell

    It sounds as though they tried this in totally the wrong place, but I'm not sure what the right place would be. A smoothbore cannon firing a 30-pound shot was seriously heavy artillery, the sort of weapon used by the heaviest ships of the line. Any firing range has a "danger-space" behind the targets, and this incident shows why.

    1. FutureShock999


      You mean, like a few miles of uninhabited forest such as behind Stickledown? OSM stands for Oh Sh*te Man! doesn't it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Bisley... was only a couple of years back when they banned .338 being used there.

        Because someone worked out you could reach the housing estate that was built other the other side of the safety area.

        They almost banned .308win about a year after that, because if you had the right bullet weight and shot it precisely at an elevation of (guessing here) 32.253 degress it could just reach them.

        I mainly remember this as it was about two weeks after I spent a grand on a new 308, and was getting very P'ed off with the NRA.

  15. TRT Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I love those guys.

    Seriously. I want to have their babies.

  16. Debe

    More anti-cannon propaganda!

    I’m sure that the “liberals” will march this out as another reason we shouldn’t be allowed extensive cannon collections to protect ourselves with, but remember… Cannons don’t kill people, people do.

    1. Jedit Silver badge

      You have the right to bear arms

      So if you can carry a full size artillery piece firing 30lb cannonballs, I have no problem whatsoever with you being allowed to keep it.

      1. Tom 38

        Bear arms

        I always thought the wording on that was a little funny. Surely the US could confiscate all the guns held by private citizens and replace them with ursine appendages?

        1. Alan 6

          Nope, the right to bear arms is merely permission to roll your sleeves up, the merkins have never been good at spelling

        2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          I have had it backwards all this time

          I thought it was every American's right to arm bears.

  17. Matt_payne666

    one word....


  18. Anonymous Coward

    Epic and stupid failure

    A lot of people consider this to be very funny but I think some authorities might want to double check on how the rules were applied and followed up here. Because I don't think its much fun if you're sleeping at home (perhaps with a new born?) and end up having to move with the whole family to a hotel because your house needs to be repaired.

    The reason why I consider this an epic fail will show very clearly when you check up with Google maps on the scenery. It becomes horribly obvious that the crew has ignored the very basic rule of firing a weapon; don't aim the weapon in the direction of a residential area, no matter how far it is away.

    Check the maps; a simple quarter turn would have made sure that this wouldn't have happened.

    A bomb disposal range? I know they used that location many times, but what was the logic behind it? A bomb will be the center of an explosion thus the force of the explosion will divided over all sides; minimizing the risk that the shockwave will eventually find its way outside the perimeters.

    Firing a weapon on the other hand is totally different; you send an object with a massive force behind it hurtling into one /single/ direction, thus no division of power.

    Can't be that hard to conclude that the idea to fire a very potentially high powered weapon on a terrain made for bomb explosions isn't the best idea? Why not talk with the military and use firing ranges for this kind of stuff; a tank firing range for example?

    I know its easy to talk after the facts, but since they claim to do things professionally I think we have every right to be critical here.

    1. FutureShock999

      yeah, but...

      As a professional shooter of long-range rifles, I heartily agree with NEARLY everything you say above. A very good summary of the situation, and their poor planning. The range where I fire at 1000 yard targets has MILES of uninhabited forests as a safety range, and is totally closed to any human access (it's been a military firing area for decades).

      But I fear that you lost me when you said "perhaps with a new born?". It is totally correct that baby's hearing is more easily damaged by loud noises that an adults, and thus are more vulnerable to even a near miss. But frankly, one more use of "think of the children!" we really didn't need...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        The reason I mention 'new born' was because there were several people sleeping during the day.

        Its not uncommon (and actually /very/ practical) to take a quick nap when the little one is sleeping as well. Especially after a rough night of being kept awake by an unhappy critter :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      No, they're just a bunch of morons having fun in front of a camera.

      And I fully agree that this incident was extremely dangerous and stupidly handed by those clowns, and hopefully the authorities will have a close look into what very easily could have become a tragedy.

    3. Tom 13

      Since they have to sign an agreement with the government

      every time they use the range, and always discuss in detail with same the nature of what they are going to do at the range, don't you think maybe someone there should have thought of that as well?

      They have been responsible about manning up after the fact, which is a lot more than I will say for many people.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It becomes horribly obvious that the crew has ignored the very basic rule of firing a weapon; don't aim the weapon in the direction of a residential area, no matter how far it is away."

      Well, that's practically impossible.unless you shoot everything up into the air which is probably more dangerous. Also don't use semi-colons, ever.

      1. Matthew 3

        I was with you until you started on the semicolons. What've they ever done to you?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Perhaps, but no. You can't expect the people working there that they can fully oversee the consequences of whatever gizmo the Mythbusters have cooked up that time.

        Their job lies with explosives, not firing stuff. So I don't think its fair to try and put the blame on them.

    5. mad_dr

      "perhaps with a new born?"

      I'm glad someone's thinking of the children!

      1. Abremms

        "I'm glad someone's thinking of the children!"

        only the hypothetical ones though.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The world population... about 7 billion! I think we can afford to lose a few in the name of entertainment.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        lose a few in the name of entertainment.

        Only if we get to choose which ones

    7. Rob Crawford


      if you are worried about the hearing of your children you shouldn't buy a house next door to a bomb range.

      It's not as if the bomb range just came down with a shower of raine one day.

      As for explosions I was near hit by a railway tie when the local signal cabin was blowen up and that was well over half a mile away.

      If you are going to blame anybody blame the safety experts employed by both the show and the police dept who own the bomb range

    8. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Sorry, ShelLuser ...

      ... I don't agree with you. The key point here is that *no-one was hurt*. This means that everyone involved (programme makers, cops, safety bods) get the chance to think very hard about whether they are taking this sort of thing seriously enough, and how to improve their planning. There is absolutely no reason to be dragging in officialdom.

      Mistakes are what makes progress possible - the person who never made a mistake never made anything (except a lie).

      Disclaimer: I haven't watched MythBusters for years, because the stupidity of the males rapidly overcame my interest in Kari Byron ...

  19. MrJP

    F*cking awesome!

  20. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    I bet you the program will get massive viewing

    Nothing like a massive, published cock-up to attract viewers :-). And it proves it's for real.

    Having said that, I am VERY glad no-one was injured. Maybe a God particle took a day off and put in some rescue efforts?

  21. Ian 31

    Bang On

    Woohoo! Want one for Christmas

  22. JeffyPooh

    "...wrecked a Toyota..."

    Not all bad then...

    MythBusters: "Improving the World - By Destroying One Tedious and Boring Transportation Appliance at a Time" ™

    1. Anonymous Coward

      but i thaught...

      Top gear had proved that was impossible!

  23. mark 63 Silver badge

    bit of a mythstake there, by those mythguided mythfits

    are they gonna be charged with a mythdemeanor?

    the cannon must have been mythaimed or mythaligned

    or there was some sort of mythunderstanding with the range of the mythille

    wonder if they were mythadvised.

    what a mythadventure!

    >crawls back under rock ashamed

    1. A. Coatsworth

      I tried to read that out loud... now my monitor is covered with spit.

      Thanks a lot, Mark

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I tried to read that out loud... now my monitor is covered with spit."

        Or thpit.

  24. flingback


    What time did they fire this cannon at for people to be asleep!! Surely during daylight hours (of which there are not many at this time of year) otherwise there wouldn't have been a lot to film, and during a work day. Something about this story is a bit fishy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      To be fair, when have a day off, i dont tend to surface much before midday either...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You could be right...

      In th past they have always done cannon style tests on the abandoned air field (naval base?) with has a few miles of runway and then a mile or so of harbour before there's anything to hit.

      1. laird cummings

        ...abandoned air field (naval base?)...

        The (Ex) Navy stations at Treasure Island (in the middle of the San Fancisco bay) and Alameda (also in the S.F. bay) would both have been even worse choices for something like this than the bomb range they chose.

      2. kain preacher

        That base has been sold to the city of Alameda and will be condos in two years.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge


          There are no nuclear wessels at Alameda? How will Kirk and the crew get the whales to the 24th Century?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Adam and Jamie are apologising in person

    If it was my house, I'd rather they sent Kari.

  26. tmTM

    Awesome shot

    'In through the front door, out through the back'

    Then totalled a mini-van 1km away.

    I'd love to see these people play pool.

  27. BrentRBrian

    Oops, I mythed


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ooopth thurely?

  28. tony72

    Ahh, Mythbusters

    Ahh, Mythbusters, and their decreasingly rigorous testing of decreasingly mythical myths. It was good once upon a time, but they're really scraping the barrel these days in therms of the "myths" they take on. At least putting lives in danger adds a bit of an edge of excitement to things, so I hope this isn't the last time they do it. Explosions and Kari in a tight t-shirt are the only reason to watch that show now.

    1. johnnytruant

      Explosions and Kari are plenty reason enough, though.

  29. graeme leggett

    Differing standards of accountability

    If it happened to your average home experimenter, it would be followed by a swift visit by the police.

    You wouldn't have time to call your insurance company and arrange compensation, you'd be busy finding out what it's like to wear shoes with no shoelaces and how bad tea in the nick can taste.

    Followed by an appearance in front of the magistrates and your probity and mental balance questioned by the red top newspapers.

    1. Tom 13

      If your average home experimenter filled out the same paperwork,

      bought the same insurance, and used the same bomb range, the results would be pretty much the same.

    2. L.B.
      Thumb Down

      don't forget the big difference though.

      The Mythbusters crew were being supervise by the county sheriffs dept.

      They are responsible for granting access and approving the use of the range for these tests.

  30. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    Any relation to Horatio?

    Alameda County Sheriff's Department spokesman J.D. Nelson said:

    "It missed the target and took kind of an oddball bounce, It was almost like skipping a rock on a lake. Instead of burying it into the hill it just went skyward."

    But he's not the first Nelson to realise that a cannon ball will do more damage if it 'bounces' first.

  31. brimful

    Big bad wolf canon

    Will huff, will puff, will blow your house down/away.

  32. Sean Nevin

    When I first heard about this from a co-worker, I found it hard to belive that they could have srewed up like this. I've been watching the show for years and just couldn't picture Adam or Jamie messing up so badly. Now I see it was the other ones and it makes more sense. I'll bet that Tony figured heavily in this...

  33. Steven Jones

    Legal action?

    Surely, even in the land of the free, this one must be attracting the attention of the legal authorities. I suspect recklessly firing cannon balls in an urban area might just have breached some local laws.

    1. sisk

      Given that they had filled out all the necessary paperwork to use a police bomb range and there were officers on hand to supervise the test, I would have to say that the likelihood of any laws being broken approaches zero rapidly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Police are not above the law

        Then I would expect the gaol to also be holding the idiots who authorised the attempt. Obviously the test was outside their competence.

        For an IT angle

        IF [test range length] < [historically recorded range of cannon fire] THEN STOP

      2. Zippy the Pinhead


        Laws not being broken would not relieve them of the civil liabilities from this accident.

        1. sisk


          True, they are still subject to civil liabilities, but they're already taking care of those without so much as an angry word being cast in their direction, let alone having to be dragged kicking and screaming through the courts. All in all I think they're handling their civil responsibilties in this instance far better than the police would have.

        2. bubba-bear

          The article says that they are making good on their civil liabilities; they are paying for repairs and hotels. If the Toyota was totaled it will be replaced and they will probably provide a rental car. The production company has insurance to pay for this sort of damage. Maybe they can get Jamie and Adam to autograph a piece of rubble from the damage. The affected people might even get Mythbusters t-shirts.

      3. Steven Jones

        Still culpable

        In which case those who got the evaluation wrong should be in the dock for this one.

  34. Jon Smit

    I've a dreadful feeling

    One of the homeowners was British.

  35. Tom 13

    Wish that house were mine.

    I'd say, "I don't think you need to put me up in a hotel, but I would like a guest shot on your show."

    1. Bill Cumming

      i'd not use the phrase ...

      ..."Guest Shot on the show..." they might still be testing cannon myths... >_<

      Also when the shot went awry it was during testing (they just had 2 perfect practice shots and this was going to be the third and last test shot)...

    2. disgruntled yank Silver badge


      I'm not sure I'd use the word "shot" here.

  36. Sean Baggaley 1

    I hate to point out the bleeding obvious...

    ... but the cannon was in the Alameda County Bomb Range. And that bomb range is clearly in a hollow, so I can understand why nobody expected anything to get hit.


    The Mythbusters team also rely heavily on the services of *professionals*, including a retired explosives expert. They don't just rock up with a home-made cannon and aim it at some random hillside. Nobody *likes* paying insurance, so the Mythbusters team are hardly unique in complaining about it. They're required to use consultants and abide by the laws and regulations governing such procedures.

    If their *paid* consultants were happy with the setup, *those consultants* need to explain what went wrong, not the presenters, whose job is primarily to look good on TV and remember the script. There's a whole production team behind each show, not just a bunch of guys farting about in a warehouse full of random special effects gear.

    Finally, the experiment was being conducted expressly under the supervision of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. So calling in the police would be kind of redundant as they were the ones *in charge* of this!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Missing something

      Weren't they shooting from inside the bomb range instead of into it?

      Why would you have the local police there. Wouldn't this be something that you would clear on a state or federal level?

      Since when does a retired explosives expert become an artillery expert?

    2. laird cummings

      ... I can understand why nobody expected anything to get hit.

      The behavior of spherical solid shot is very well-known to real experts and even laypersons: At low angles of incidence, the shot bounces. ANY casual perusal of written material on the subject makes that abundantly clear. So, why didn't *they* know that..? I don't understand their failure to employ basic safeguards, such as a building a shot trap.

    3. Anonymous Coward


      I wonder if this is still allowed but...

      Try the "Reply" option next time so that I can spot your response earlier and actually respond to it while the discussion is active.

  37. sisk

    You're all too critical

    What it sounds like to me, taking the sheriff's official statement into consideration, is that the cannonball bounced in an unpredictable way instead of burying itself in the backstop the way everyone expected it to. Likely it was pointed in a direction that was uninhabited until the bounce. The Mythbusters do take safety very seriously, despite their propensity towards high explosives, after all, plus there were cops on hand to make sure they took all the proper precautions.

    Really other that the fact that they were working with a very dangerous weapon for entertainment it doesn't sound like they did anything wrong.

  38. Sly

    A learning experience...

    next time, there will be a bigger berm to contain the wayward projectile (not to mention that the spray of dirt would make for good footage).

  39. Big Al

    "The aim of the experiment was, apparently, to measure the velocity they could achieve with their maker-style ordnance."

    Result: "a hell of a lot more velocity than we expected"

  40. Stevie


    The Mythbusters are a bunch of overgrown adolescents who do dangerous (fun) stuff. This was a certainty that just needed enough time to eventuate, and they are bloody lucky noo-one is looking at jail time.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just throwing this out there...

    Accidents happen to pros as well as n00bs. Perhaps they took all the precautions they were meant to and it was a 10^x : 1 chance. Don't blame everything on incompetence, have you never had anything go wrong at work?

  42. Zippy the Pinhead

    What I love about the show is

    The disclaimer... "We're professions", yes they are.. if that means they get paid to play with dangerous stuff. They usually bring in "Experts" to oversee their work when they do the really dangerous things like explode cement trucks.. which btw is still my favorite explosion from their show.

  43. Zippy the Pinhead

    Who was the expert this time?

    I have a feeling it was the same retired FBI expert they have who usually oversees their explosion projects when they should have consulted the Army or Marines Artillery who actually study stuff like this.

  44. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    building codes

    Is it the prevalent notion in the UK that houses should be built to withstand cannon fire? I had the impression that the War of the Roses demonstrated the difficulty of doing so.

  45. Dave 32


    Perhaps this will enlighten y'all when it comes to construction techniques:


  46. Rick Brasche

    I tried the "I missed" excuse once

    my my ex wife still made me clean up the bathroom floor.

    thank you all, I'll be here all night.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As you've just demonstrated...

      ...apparently, you won't ;).

  47. Stephen Stagg


    Don't insult anything about America if you don't want to upset lots of people

  48. jake Silver badge

    The ignorance shown here is appalling.

    Here's a hint, kiddies: If you haven't spent time on both sides of ThePond[tm][1], kindly refrain from demonstrating your lack of understanding of the Universal Building Code on either side. Housing is built with both available materials, and according to conditions, in pretty much all Western countries[2]. Here in the SF Bay Area, Earthquakes are kind of an important thing to think about. We build accordingly. See:

    Hint 2: The Sheriff in question clearly stated it was a "misfire". This happens. It's rare, thankfully, but it happens. What that means, roughly, is that the cannon went off when it wasn't in the designated operating state. We don't know the details yet, but clearly it was an accident and not malicious.

    Hint 3: Brits, please stop commenting on guns. You're not qualified. Yanks, stop needling the Brits over same; until you've been there, you can't grasp their politically enhanced needless paranoia of unknown tools.

    Hint 4: Brits, the US is a very big place. As a result, it has a huge quantity of micro-climates. Tornado Ally is not New England is not the Great North Wet is not the Desert South West is not Alaska is not Florida is not Hawai'i ... Here in Central California alone, I have snow-skied at sunrise in the Sierra (24F), water skied on the Delta at noon (88F), and surfed in the rain at Davenport Landing at sunset (65F). All on the same day. I drove home through heavy fog over the Golden Gate Bridge later in the evening.

    Hint 5: A Hurricane != Hurricane force winds. One is a massive low pressure region, the other is an air pressure gradient.

    [1] My stats: ~73% US soil, ~22% UK soil, ~5% elsewhere on this dampish rock (I was a global network troubleshooter in my late 20s & early 30s).

    [2] Trailer Parks in Tornado Alley being an obvious anomaly ... there are others.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      @jake ...

      ... "Brits, please stop commenting on guns. You're not qualified." Sadly, that is all too true. I watched the clip of Mr Boothroyd at the end of the recent article on the new "Q" (, and realised how backward we in the UK have become since only 50 years due to our spineless government refusing to treat us as adults.

    2. laird cummings


      Misfire or not, when operating heavy artillery in close proximity to housing, absence of a suitable trap is not an accident - it's shit-poor planning and corner-cutting, and thus is not an accident.

      The rest of your points? Amen.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @laird cummings

        They had a suitable trap. From all accounts, the first two shots were successfully contained. The third shot went off in a manor that was unexpected. It was an accident.

        It happens occasionally, and will always happen occasionally, when humans are in the loop. We're not perfect. We make mistakes. Even experts.

        Personally, I've always said they should use the quarry in Calaveras County for this kind of thing ... See 38.023737,-120.505085 for details ;-)

  49. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Havent they heard of recoil?

    I imagine they forgot the effect of recoil - the cannon starts to recoil BEFORE the shot leaves the barrel so if its supported from below the weapon tips up and fires high.

    Though I suggest several more attempts just to make sure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      They have. They even experimented with it for crying out loud.

      Oh how quick most people totally forget the obvious when their "heroes" are on the receiving end of some critics.

  50. Andus McCoatover

    Lucky sods...

    A chance to play a REAL game of "Angry Birds"!!

  51. Alan Bourke

    At least Kari is unhurt.

    That's the main thing.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There might be a pun in there somewhere.

    Now if we can just get them to do something involving a bouncing bomb and a dam...

  53. Andus McCoatover

    Looking at that hole in the house wall...

    Maybe a film, as a combination between "Shawshank Redemption" and "Hannonball the Cannonball" is in order?

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