Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The term crackpot to me doesn't necessarily have a bad connotation.

 To me they come in three sizes. The nutcase, the dreamer and the experimenter.

While for most people the term drums up a picture of a wild-eyed, Einstein haired mad scientist type in a white coat trying to make some outlandish and generally useless idea work, there is a little more to it than that.

To me the term simply covers those that have chosen the road less traveled and have decided to follow their dreams. Some are builders and others are curious people that have a desire to test things and come up with their own results. While some are certainly nutty types, others are simply interesting builders and experimenters.

I have a lot of room in my heart for all 3 types, the nuts, the dreamers and the experimenters.

My favorite nut was the guy that hooked the weather balloons to the lawn chair and found himself looking DOWN on passing airliners while sipping on a cold beer seated in his chair. None other than good old Lawnchair Larry.

Some time ago I wrote about another guy that built a hot rod and took it to the Bonneville Salt Flats hoping to break 175 mph. He didn't. I believe the engine threw a rod and it sent him back home again to try again. This guy wasn't a high toned designer with a bunch of corporate sponsers, just an average joe with a garage in his house and working on his project on weekends.

I wonder if he tried again this year and how he made out. It would be interesting to find out if he made his dream come true.

One of my favorite experimenters is a guy from Texas by the name of Don who likes shooting things and is constantly trying out different kinds of ammunition and checking out different firearms.

On an internet forum I frequent he goes by the non-de-net of Old_Painless. To check his activity out just Google 'Box O' Truth'. It'll take you right there. This guy is GOOD.

While Don does a pretty good firearm review, my favorite posts are when he tests ammunition in different scenarios or tries to bust a myth. One time, much to my amusement, he dispelled an old myth about the US carbine bullet being stopped by frozen Chinese army overcoats during the Korean conflict. He did this simply by buying an old Chinese Army overcoat, soaking it and leaving it in his freezer for a couple days and taking it to the range. He had an old US carbine and shot through the coat several times and busted that myth pretty quickly.

While that was amusing there are several ammunition tests that he has done and what is interesting is that he generally winds up pretty close to getting the same results the FBI crime labs get, more or less.

He's not always 100% dead on, but he's generally pretty damned close which says a lot when you look at what he puts into it.
The FBI lab has a pretty good budget but Don just pulls a few bucks out of his wallet for ammo and gallon bottles of water and tries things out.He doesn't have a controlled lab and ballistic get is pretty expensive stuff so he simply goes with what he has. The results are pretty damned impressive if you ask me.

If it shoots a projectile he'll test it out.

I once mentioned that I was achieving different results with different weights with the slingshot I use for stringing antennas over obstacles and trees. I suggested he try out different sized weights and see what happened.

Sure enough the seeds of curiosity had been planted and a couple of weeks later I got an email with a link and there it was. He had tested out a couple of different slingshots with interesting results.

Every now and then someone will try and argue some small point with him. Occasionally the arguer may even have half an argument that hold a little water but you have to remember that we're not talking about picky details here. We're talking about ball park figures and generally Don not only stays inside the ball park but is pretty darned close to the big money lab guy's results.

While picking the FBI crime lab to death is fair enough, picking at a guy running on a small budget like Don does really isn't fair. You have to remember Don is working with readily available household items and pocket change. The FBI labs have basically unlimited resources.

It's interesting to see a guy dig out a $20 bill, run a test and maybe have change left over and find that the results match the big boys tests closely.

Sometimes it makes you wonder why the big boys go through all the time, money and trouble what they could probably just ask Don.

Maybe Don ought to grow a beard and sell beer on TV because he sure is....interesting.

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