From the green and verdant fields of Great Britain comes the ability to knock crap over using a ring of gas shot out of a cannon at a whopping 200 miles an hour. Not only does it sound cool, but its got a great super-sized space Phaser mixed with old-timey smokin' pipe look to boot.
Though on this side of the pond we take for granted our Mythbusters, the incomparable Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, often engaged in the blowing up of almost random pieces of matter on the flimsiest of myth-related whims, our compatriots on the other side of the Atlantic have a similar set of science solicitors, and their show, known as "Bang Goes The Theory", has apparently done a number of interesting experiments.
This one, though, is a doozy.
Using a large and tapered metal cylinder, in addition to a generous amount of acetylene and oxygen mixture, their team was able to create a pressurized ring of compressed gas that shot out from a "vortex cannon" at a blistering 200 miles an hour.
Viewed on the video, the vortex looks like nothing so much as a blue smoke ring, except that unlike the ones created by your grandfather, getting hit in the face with this thing will leave you with a black eye and a neck fracture rather than just a case of the coughs.
The "smoke ring" itself is actually condensing water which is being picked up by the gas as it travels at one-quater the speed of sound over the small lake at the test site. Water isn't necessary to the function of thing - it was there mostly to keep the risk of "oh God oh God we're all gonna die" fire damage down, and to verify that a vortex capable of sucking up things in its immediate surroundings actually existed.
While the vortex cannon created was able to knock over a straw, wood and brick "house" - please tell us you get the reference here - the whole experiment came off as being a bit of a ham. While the "houses" were knocked down, the brick one especially would never have passed anything approaching a building code. Not only was there only one layer of bricks, but they weren't even mortared together. Sure, it looked cool to smash it over with gas, but it's unlikely that in any practical application the cannon is going to come up against a civilization of people who just haven't found a way to make stuff stick to other stuff.
Truthfully, the cannon has little in the way of practical value, and as the show's name clearly states, was created merely to test the theory that it could be done, and also that it could go bang.
Two for two on this one.
While non-lethal military applications could be a potential future use for this device, it will probably occupy its niche on the Internet and the storage bay of the television show's studio until it is no longer needed, in addition to being dangerously replicated by all of those viewers who ignore the "please for the love of everything holy, don't do this at home" messages.
To sum up:
Vortex cannon = cool.
Canonization via gas-related effects = probably best left to flatulent martyrs.
Source: Kottke via BBC