The average Playmate

Tornado fighters

One of the big hazards of being a technology journalist is that probably one-third of the time I can’t tell whether the stuff I’m researching is real or an elaborate hoax. Such is the case with Tornado Fighters, a project set up by Brad Mason. He wants to assemble a crack team of munitions-equipped guys to destroy tornados, using the following process:

We’ll make a rocket that travels 3300 ft. then explodes (a safe distance to operate from a tornado). Let the solid fuel burning inside the rocket burn through a thin protective membrane and detonate the explosive. Since tornados are large in diameter + or - 50 ft. should be accurate enough. We’ll also make one that travels 5280 ft. Our current knowledge of tornado structure is drawn. More than one salvo may be needed to stop a tornado.

If nothing else, this would make a hell of a video game. And if Mason is doing this as a media prank, he’s being impressively thorough. He even applied for funding from the National Research Intitiative Competitive Grants Program, and when he was rejected, posted a .gif of their letter to him on his web site here. (While they admit that “it would be highly desirable to have the ability to exterminate tornadoes”, they point out that most tornadoes strike with less than 15 minutes of warning, “thereby making it highly unlikely for any one vehicle to position itself quickly enough to impact the average tornado in a timely manner.”) Undeterred, Mason has forged ahead, setting out a budget for a single tornado-fighting team, including an $80,000 “armored vehicle” and a $5,000 “rocket launcher”.

(Thanks to Dave Barry’s blog for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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