Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ka Boom2 - for Greg
Don't Do This At Home Kids!
Don't You Adults Try It Either!

I think, given this video, that KSTP made a reasonably accurate use of the words highly explosive in referencing black powder in a pipe bomb.  Because a picture is worth a thousand words, and these moving pictures are worth even more, I will let them refute Greg Camp's assessment, and support Democommie's explanation.

This is just a sampling of the videos available on youtube of black powder bomb explosions.  It appears to be a popular activity, and there can be absolutely no question whatsoever, after viewing these videos, that under the right conditions - and there appear to be many different versions of that - black powder is explosive; it does go Ka-Boom very convincingly.  (Be sure to scroll down to the end.)

Consider this a public service to educate the educator.

You just have to love youtube and the 'interwebs'.  Hope you all enjoyed the Mikeb blog video of stupid guys getting their rocks off doing stupid things - HIGHLY EXPLOSIVE things -  with black powder. 

I'll be looking forward to the explanations of why these videos do not show black powder EXPLOSIONS, by the usual definitions of the term.

For those of you not familiar with the usual definitions of the word explosion, in addition to the video definitions of the term, I am pleased to provide the definition from for clarification:


an act or instance of exploding;  a violent expansion or bursting with noise, as of gunpowder or a boiler ( opposed to implosion).
the noise itself: The loud explosion woke them.
a violent outburst, as of laughter or anger.
a sudden, rapid, or great increase: a population explosion.
the burning of the mixture of fuel and air in an internal-combustion engine.

and the word explode, also from


[ik-splohd]  verb, -plod·ed, -plod·ing.
verb (used without object)
to expand with force and noise because of rapid chemical change or decomposition, as gunpowder or nitroglycerine ( opposed to implode).
to burst, fly into pieces, or break up violently with a loud report, as a boiler from excessive pressure of steam.
 You're welcome.


  1. High explosive is a technical term. It means that the velocity of the pressure wave is supersonic. Blackpowder produces a subsonic wave. That's the difference, and that's the reason that "highly explosive" is a misleading use of language.

  2. The original opening line from the KSTP article was this:

    "Police in southern Wisconsin say a package dropped by a man who shot and killed himself was highly explosive."

    They did not claim that the black powder was a 'high explosive', they said it was highly explosive - that means that it could be extremely explosive versus minimally explosive or not explosive.

    I believe the videos convincingly and persuasively address that this is indeed an explosive substance, using the more common meaning of the word explode or explosive.

    Let me provide you with the definition of 'highly' as it modifies the word explosive in that sentence. The meaning of definition 1 or 3 are equally applicable:

    in or to a high degree; extremely: highly amusing; highly seasoned food.

    with high appreciation or praise; admiringly: to speak highly of a person.
    more than adequately; generously: a highly paid consultant.

    before 900; Middle English heihliche, Old English hēalīce. See high, -ly

    That would indicate that the words highly AND explosive were used properly. They were generally informative rather than used in the specific context of technical terminology in specialized writing.

    This was not a technical article, by any stretch of the imagination - except that of a gun nut, trying desperately to negate fair criticism of what someone did with a firearm and black powder.

    So either you, as a person who tells us you teach writing professionally don't recognize or understand that significant difference in the kind of writing that is found in that article, or you are too intellectually dishonest to give fair credit for the choice of wording conveying an accurate report, where that credit is due.

    I suppose those two options are not mutually exclusive. They do illustrate once again a lack of critical thinking and intellectual honesty that would not have been acceptable in the Minnesota K-12 public school district that I attended as a kid. So, I am sorry to see that it is acceptable to an Arkansas college level teacher of writing.

  3. Greg, did you ever take a course in demolition?

    I doubt it since you were never in the military.

    Anyone who has knows that a pipe bomb is an IED using plain explosive material (not HE) to create a high explosive effect accompanied by shrapnel. They were found in Ulster.

    Most of the IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan are made with non-metallic parts to avoid detection and ammonium nitrate (fertiliser). On the other hand, people use what they can if they can't find proper HE material.

    The fact that the explosion was contained in the pipe results in the higher explosive effect.

    But it is always amusing to see Greg talk out of his depth, which is most of the time.

  4. Laci the Dog,

    Why don't you read what I write before you mouth off?

    Dog Gone,

    I ask you the same question. Yup, like Hermione Granger, you've demonstrated yourself to be an insufferable know-it-all (use Alan Rickman's voice here), but if you'd read what I originally wrote, you'd see that I do have a point.

    The phrase, highly explosive, is silly. "Highly" is used there for sensationalism, not as a technical description. I teach my students to avoid adverbs whenever possible. I grow weary of overblown language in the media, and that was the root of my comment.

    But I wouldn't expect either of you to be able to see past your own predjudices.

  5. I did read your bullshit, asshole.

    You think someone who has been blown up is going to give a shit whether the explosion was sub or supersonic?

    Have you ever been anywhere after a bomb has gone off, fuckwit?

    I have in Ulster--many times.

    A pipe bomb can have an extreme destructive effect even if it has a less than supersonic pressure wave.

    It's destructive capabilities are based upon the quantity of explosives, not its velocity.

    So, I would appreciate having you shut your gob before you start lecturing me about something I can guess you have never experience in real life, Greg.

    I have, and I have no patience for you and your pretended expertise.

    So, don't talk until you have completed a course in demolitions.

  6. If I agreed with your argument, Greg, the question at issue would be does the word highly correctly describe the kind of explosion that occurred, or not.

    It does. Laci's experience elaborates on that, illustrating that there was in fact neither exaggeration or sensationalism in writing about this bomb. It WAS dangerous.

    Frankly absent any measuring equipment, I doubt very much that you Greg could tell the difference between the higher levels of subsonic pressure waves in an explosion from the lower level supersonic pressure wave. It is, for purposes of this article, not important.

    Whether the velocity of the pressure wave is supersonic or not is like requiring a person to clarify that when they write in a letter, or an essay that the sky is blue, instead they should be providing the following technical information:

    "Diffuse sky radiation is solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface after having been scattered from the direct solar beam by molecules or suspensoids in the atmosphere. It is also called skylight, diffuse skylight, or sky radiation and is the reason for changes in the colour of the sky. Of the total light removed from the direct solar beam by scattering in the atmosphere (approximately 25% of the incident radiation when the sun is high in the sky, depending on the amount of dust and haze in the atmosphere), about two-thirds ultimately reaches the earth as diffuse sky radiation.

    The important processes in the atmosphere (Rayleigh scattering and Mie scattering) are elastic processes, by which light can be deviated from its path without being absorbed and with no change in wavelength."

    No, the appropriate term to use for non-technical writing is simply the sky is blue.

    You don't know squat apparently about the reality of explosives, and your of writing is apparently crap. It was NOT the root of your comment, if you really understood the nature of the explosion - as the article author clearly DOES.

  7. Given that part of the effect of the explosion is the shock wave, Greg really wouldn't be able to tell the difference between LE and HE.

    He already acts like he's been stunned by an explosion anyway.

  8. Read the news article carefully. No one was injured when the police used a controlled detonation to destroy the device. A blackpowder bomb will kill you as dead as a high explosive, but the distinction would matter to a forensics specialist who is trying to figure out where the bomb was planted and what it was. But if you two want to defend the sensationalist press, be my guest.

    Laci the Dog,

    You didn't write the news article, nor did you write the article on this site. I wasn't lecturing you. I wasn't even speaking to you. I was polite to you at first, until you turned more than one discussion here into a contest to see who had the fouler mouth and who could toss out more threats against the other.

    Dog Gone,

    My complaint about the news article was not that it declared the sky to be blue. It shouted that the sky is a really bright blue, and oh, by the way, IT'S FALLING!

  9. Greg, as Laci pointed out, a black powder pipe bomb is HIGHLY explosive.

    He made that comment based on his experience with similar bombs while in military service in Ulster. That is practical expertise you don't have. Laci made it clear that this was a very dangerous bomb that was described in the news article.

    Describing it as highly explosive was not an exaggeration, it was not sensational, it was informative, it was pertinent to the story, and it was objectively factual.

    Let me summarize here - first you objected because 'high explosive' is a technical term. Except the article didn't use the term high explosive, so there was no misleading use of language, as you claimed.

    Then you called it an exaggeration and sensationalism, which Laci refuted with this:

    A pipe bomb can have an extreme destructive effect even if it has a less than supersonic pressure wave.

    It's destructive capabilities are based upon the quantity of explosives, not its velocity.

    Calling the bomb highly explosive relates to its destructive capacity, as Laci correctly noted - not what kind of pressure wave is generated.

    When losing on the technical terminology front, Greg then goes on to write:
    "Read the news article carefully. No one was injured when the police used a controlled detonation to destroy the device."

    There is no relevance to whether or not anyone was injured when the police detonated the bomb. A bomb is not more explosive or less explosive depending on how many people it kills or injures.

    How explosive it is depends on one thing, on how much destructive force it generates.

    As the KSTP news person writing this article was in contact with the police, unlike you Greg, I give them credit for using the information provided to them as to the amount of destructive force the bomb produced.

    So once again Greg, you show your inability to apply critical reasoning.

    The pressure wave is irrelevant.
    The terminology was correct, not technically incorrect as you claimed, and it was descriptively appropriate usage for the story.

    You have failed, utterly, to demonstrate that this is either a sensational or exaggerated descriptive phrase, since YOU clearly have NOT spoken with the police involved.

    And it doesn't matter a damn for the purpose of the term 'highly explosive' if people were killed or injured - or not. It doesn't matter because that is NOT a practical or objective measure of the destructive force generated by the bomb.

    What you have demonstrated is that you do not distinguish correctly between different kinds of writing - and btw, I've done both technical writing and journalism, so I have an objective basis for comparison.

    So, unless you can provide me with something that contradicts the KSTP report from the police who detonated that bomb, AND something which contradicts Laci's expertise indicating this was a highly explosive device, YOU FAIL Greg to make your point.

    Heck, you fail to make ANY valid rational, objective, or stylistic point.

    I can write this with a confident expectation that you are too lazy and too afraid of being proven wrong to contact the police who did the detonation to ask for a clarification.

    You don't do that kind of fact checking; you just talk out of your ass and then seem surprised no one takes you seriously.

    Ooops!! I guess I was writing more informally there, which is democommie's style.

  10. GC wrote:
    My complaint about the news article was not that it declared the sky to be blue. It shouted that the sky is a really bright blue, and oh, by the way, IT'S FALLING!

    That comment simply demonstrates the problem with your reading comprehension.

    There is NOTHING in the article that remotely equates to 'really bright blue' or 'the sky is falling'.

    Maybe you should take a breath,step back, stay away from too much caffeine for a few hours, and reread the original ka-boom again.

    YOU are the one who is sensationalizing the content. The original author did just fine with the usual journalism who where what why and how.

  11. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
    Waukesha - A suicidal Waukesha man who fatally shot himself on a public street Tuesday night, dropping a small homemade bomb to the ground nearby in the process, had left a suicide note at his residence, police said Wednesday.

    The incident had prompted Waukesha police to evacuate nearby residents while the Milwaukee County Bomb Squad helped detonate the device.

    Chad L. Cross, 35, had left in his South St. residence a suicide note and bomb-making materials, which were found in a search after the incident, according to Waukesha police Capt. Ron Oremus.

    A friend of Cross had reported shortly after 8 p.m. that Cross was suicidal and had a gun. Police found him at the area of Kensington Drive and Manor Drive. When they arrived, he got out of a car, walked away, ignoring verbal commands, and shot himself with a Civil War-style replica muzzle-loaded gun.

    No shots were fired by police, Oremus said.

    The Waukesha County Sheriff's Office tactical vehicle and the Milwaukee County bomb squad responded, using a robot to determine that Cross was dead before removing the 3-inch-by-4-inch explosive device to a nearby retaining wall and detonating it about 11:45 p.m.

    The device was made of black power and ball ammunition from a muzzle-loaded weapon, according to the Milwaukee County Bomb Squad.

    From WTMJ Milwaukee radio
    WAUKESHA - Waukesha Police said Wednesday morning that a robot made sure that a homemade bomb was prevented from detonating in a neighborhood that had been evacuated.

    A 35-year-old man took his own life by the corner of Kensington and Manor Drives, but he left the explosive device behind.

    Milwaukee County Sheriff's Bomb Squad members detonated that 3" by 4" by 2" homemade bomb, using a robot and special munitions.

    "We heard a loud pop at 8:30 p.m. It sounded like a gunshot," said Doug Ewing, who was one of the evacuated people.

    Waukesha Police said that loud pop was the sound of the man taking his own life.

    Police said the officers stopped the man in the street after learning he had a gun and might be suicidal.

    Just then, he ended his life and an explosive device fell from his back pack.

    "Within minutes, they came to my back door and told us we had to evacuate because they thought there was a bomb involved," explained Ewing.

    City buses kept evacuated people warm, while the Bomb Squad used a robot to detonate the device.

    "They believe the safest way to get through this situation is to detonate the IED in place, so they did that safely without any harm to the community," explained Waukesha Police Captain Ron Oremus.

    Waukesha Police ere trying to determine if the man was drunk or high on drugs at the time.

    Police said he had suicidal thoughts in recent days.

    Officers headed to his home near the 300 block of South Street in Waukesha to make sure there was no further danger there.

    They found a suicide note and bomb-making materials on scene.

    A 'highly' explosive device was not in the local press. Perhaps in Minnesota schools they teach embellishment of facts is fine & dandy when reporting a news story.

  12. Guys, there is a great difference between a high explosive and a low explosive. Most traditional gunpowder (mostly known as black powder since WW1) is a low explosive while modern smokeless gun powder, which is nitro or double based is a high explosive. I am sure Laci is familiar with British Cordite, which was in use through WW2. This was an early smokeless propellant put was still considered a low-explosive.

    Under current U.S. commercial packaging and safety standards, all gunpowder, high and low, black and smokeless are not classified as explosives at all but are considered "flammables".

  13. "High explosive is a technical term."

    Your own words.

    "Highly explosive" is NOT a technical term. The article in question was written for a daily news outlet, not a technical journal.

    You are being pedantic, and wrongly pedantic at that.


    "My complaint about the news article was not that it declared the sky to be blue. It shouted that the sky is a really bright blue, and oh, by the way, IT'S FALLING!

    December 1, 2011 9:58 PM'

    Is a fucking lie, you're a fucking liar. The reason I say "fucking" instead of using another word is because I find the lying as offensive as you seem to find the word, "fucking". I could say you're being mendacious, or that you're prevaricating or that you're telling an egregious lie, but calling you a fucking liar is less work--at least now that I have that explantation out of the way.

  14. FatWhiteMan:

    This link:

    and this one:

    both call black powder a "Low explosive". I actually do know the difference between TNT and other high explosives and black powder. One thing I don't think you can do with black powder is make a shaped charge. Other than that you can make dandy anti-personnel devices that will make plenty of noise and create considerable mayhem.

    I spent a few hours with a team from Grucci Brothers this past summer. I was photographing the fireworks for a festival and got to ride on the tug that pushed the fireworks barge out into the lake. I was asking the crew chief what they used in the aerial displays and he said it was all gunpowder based, because HE would not deliver the effects they wanted--moves way too fast when it detonates.

  15. Democommie,

    A lie is a statement made with the intent to deceive. In what did I do that? Just because you disagree with the statement does not make it a lie.

  16. As FWM said, "there is a great difference between a high explosive and a low explosive," however there's no difference at all between stupid and stupid or immature and immature.

  17. Greg Camp:

    You're wrong about the whole "high explosive", "highly explosive" thing--and you know it. Instead of simply saying, "Yeah, that was stupid, I fucked up.", you keep doublin' down on teh burnin' stoopit. Then you accuse the author/s of the article of saying something that they simply did not say:

    "My complaint about the news article was not that it declared the sky to be blue. It shouted that the sky is a really bright blue, and oh, by the way, IT'S FALLING!

    December 1, 2011 9:58 PM"

    The story said nothing of the kind;
    you know it said nothing of the kind; in an attempt to dodge responsibility for your original faux pas you tell a blatant falshehood about the author/s.

    That, Greg Camp IS a fucking lie.

  18. FWM, your technical point would matter if the term used was high explosive. It wasn't; it was HIGHLY explosive.

    As Laci pointed out from his demolitions training and personal experience, a pipe bomb is explosive not only because of the material in it, but because of the way the compression of the pipe works on the exploding material to create the destructive force - it makes it highly explosive, in a way that loose black powder burning is not, because it can expand outward relatively unimpeded as it burns/explodes. Whichever term you use.

    The DICTIONARY makes it clear that regardless of the substance involved an explosion is something which expands with force and noise, the opposite of implodes.

    This meets that definition of the word correctly, regardless of what technical sources YOU are quoting. They do not invalidate the reporter's use of the word.

    The reporter didn't call this a HIGH explosive in contrast to a low explosive.

    The reporter described the detonated bomb as highly explosive - which it was based on being a bomb, a package which because the physical reaction on detonation expanded outwards with force and noise. A flammable reaction that is contained so as to expand outwards with force is - wait for it - AN EXPLOSION. The material so contained as to explode on detonation - not simply ignition - is explosive.

    It was not misleading, it was not sensational, and it was objectively accurate.

    So this propmts the question, why are you fighting a clearly losing battle so very hard? What skin do YOU all have in this game?

    Oh yeah - this was a crazy guy with a firearm who did serious lethal damage. He killed someone - himself. And he was using a form of gunpowder to make bombs to kill other people.

    YOU all don't want the crazy guys to be prevented from doing that, because it might inconvenience you.

    Shame on you.

  19. Or maybe you are afraid we'll discover you're a little crazy too?

  20. Dog Gone,

    That depends on your definition, but I'm sure that you can find something wrong with me. Your goal is to disarm private citizens, and you'll work toward that through any means necessary.

  21. "Dog Gone,

    That depends on your definition, but I'm sure that you can find something wrong with me. Your goal is to disarm private citizens, and you'll work toward that through any means necessary.

    December 2, 2011 5:03 PM"

    Real men don't need gunz--and they definitely don't pout.

  22. GC, I don't think you are crazy. I think you are intelligent, and probably very charming.

    But I also find you intellectually dishonest, and with poor critical thinking skills, particularly in risk assessment.

    You and FWM and others have tried to promote a pretty darn technical definition of explosive, by changing the actual wording used - high versus highly - and then trying to substitute a technical definition.

    The words used meet the definition for general use provided by the dictionary. It was appropriate use for a general type of writing - journalism.

    It was accurate, per the police department.

    It was not exaggeration, it was not hyperbole, it was not sensationalism.

    You simply don't like it because it was ONE more instance of a dangerous crazy guy with guns and gun powder bombs. That doesn't look good for your side of the argument.

    Too bad.

  23. Dog Gone,

    As I tell my students, defending a particular usage as common doesn't work with me. Common usage is often another way of saying shallow or just plain wrong.

    With regard to the story, everything worked out as it should have done. There's nothing to defend there. Again, you can't show me a way to prevent what happened without the cure being far worse than the disease. Taking guns and powder away from citizens is the kind of heavy-handed measure that your side favors, for the dubious goal of safety.

  24. "As I tell my students, defending a particular usage as common doesn't work with me. Common usage is often another way of saying shallow or just plain wrong."

    I'm happy not to have had a teacher who is as much of a pedant as you are.

    Your first comment on this thread was pissy and you just keep digging deeper because you have an inability to admit that you're NOT the only person who understands how the english language works.

    That you think the writer was describing a situation in technical terms when they were not doing so is your problem, not the writers.