Monday is Punday # 9

Warning: SirLoin is an incorrigible punster. Do not incorrige.

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There once was a young man from Rhode Isle

Who said jogging just wasn’t his style

“I’ll get my workouts,” he said.

While at home in my bed,

‘Cos a Miss is as good as a mile.”

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A newly-degreed archaeologist, on his first mid-east ‘dig’ into a royal tomb, encountered an object, which he displayed as, ‘the petrified penis of a proud and powerful Persian prince.’ Regrettably, his more experienced colleague identified the object as, ‘the calcified concretion of a constipated but curious cat, who crept into the crypt, crapped and crept out again.’

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In near-panic, the young bride finally sent an e-mail to the advice columnist:

“I’m married to a sex maniac. My husband never leaves me alone. He does me all night long … while I’m in the shower … while I’m cooking breakfast … while I’m making the beds … even when I’m trying to clean the house!

Please tell me what to do. I’m desperate.


Worn out

P.S. Please excuse the jerky typing”.

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Friends may come and friends may go,

Friends can peter out, you know.

But we’ll be friends through thick and thin,

Peter out and peter in!

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Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,

Jack jump over the candle stick.

Alas, Jack couldn’t clear the flame

Now, Jack Hot-Pants is his name!

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Quoting extensively from William Gurstelle’s 2001 book, Backyard Ballistics, pages 157-162, I offer up a tale:


On occasion, a discovery is made through a lucky accident …


“In 1955, a group of scientists and engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratories were given the task or reducing the amount of radioactive expelled into the atmosphere from nuclear testing. Astrophysicist Robert Brownlee was a principal participant in these tests, named Project Bernalillo, after a New Mexico county near Los Alamos .”


“Dr. Brownlee and his team were testing the feasibility of moving nuclear testing underground. In order to achieve a number of scientific objectives, they needed to explode several nuclear devices underground. To do so involved building the equivalent of a giant, atomic-powered potato cannon. The cannon was a 400-foot-deep well, lined with thick steel pipe, capped with a steel plate instead of a potato, and powered by a nuclear bomb instead of a squirt of hairspray.”


“Forty stories below the scrubby tangle of mesquite trees and creosote on the desert surface, researchers tried to determine if they could safely test the effects and design of nuclear devices while reducing the release of radioactive materials.”


“The Bernalillo team placed a small (by high-energy physics standards) nuclear device in the steel well and capped the well off with a big steel manhole cover. The four-foot diameter steel manhole cover was four inches thick and weighed in the neighborhood of half a ton.”


“This puny nuclear device had the explosive equivalent of less that one kiloton of high explosive. However, small in nuclear terms is still incredibly large. The effects of letting lots and lots of nuclear energy loose are sometimes hard to predict. To understand what happened when the device was triggered, the Los Alamos team assembled an array of state-of-the-art measuring equipment to test the idea (as of 1955, remember).”


“The scientists working on the Bernalillo series of test shots were trying to figure out what happens during the first micro-moments of the nuclear explosion. The Los Alamos team wanted to know what kind of nuclear particles were emitted, how many there were, and—most importantly—where they went. The data they needed to collect had to be measured in the first few shakes after the explosion begins. (A ‘shake’ is the amount of time it takes light to travel 10 feet. Since light travels 186,000 miles per second, that makes a ‘shake’ an exceedingly short time interval.)”


“The scientists put all sorts of detectors and sensors in and near the well. They also placed high-speed cameras some distance from the top of the well to film the explosion. Normal cameras take about 16 frames of film every second. The high-speed Los Alamos cameras were 10 times faster (again, remember, this was 1955).”


“When the device was triggered, the scientists got a bit more than they bargained for. The bomb emitted high-energy particles of light, called photons. Within a few shakes, the photons—or in Los Alamos lingo, the ‘shine’—bombarded the steel pipe, vaporizing it into superheated iron gas. About three-hundredths of a second after detonation, the shock wave of gas, light and radiation blasted against the bottom of the thick steel cover plate at the top of the well.”


“The high-speed camera recorded the blast effect on the plate. In one frame the plate is there. In the very next frame, 1/160th of a second later, it is gone. Where did the four-foot diameter, heifer-sized steel plate go? The area was searched carefully, but the plate wasn’t found. In fact, in the 40-plus years since project Bernalillo, no trace of the plate has been found, anywhere.”


“… Dr. Brownlee performed some preliminary calculations. Based on the expected bomb yield, the shape and depth of the test hole, and so forth, he figured the initial velocity of the plate would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 41 miles per second.”


“… In 1687, Isaac Newton figured out some interesting things about gravity and velocity. He deduced that there is one particular speed, one where you can throw something hard enough and fast enough, you can make it through the gravitational attraction of the Earth and break free into outer space. Newton called this speed ‘escape velocity,’ and on Earth this is calculated to be just a hair less than seven miles a second. When the Bernalillo team calculated the plate’s velocity just after detonation, they estimated it was in the rough neighborhood of five times escape velocity!”


“A few years later, in 1959, a team of Soviet scientists launched what they claimed to be the first man-made object into outer space, the satellite Sputnick.

Many people at Los Alamos think Sputnick was merely the second object to travel to outer space—preceded by a full two years by an American-made manhole cover!”

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See ya next week.


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