Murphy's Law: May 16, 2005

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The war on terror has made it more difficult, and sometimes more dangerous, to remove old landmines. De-mining (removing or destroying mines) is a big business around the world. Millions of mines left over from past wars are in need of removal, and charities and governments are willing to pay for the de-mining effort. However, since September 11, 2001, its become almost impossible to fly the small explosive charges, needed to destroy mines once found (moving old mines if often too dangerous), to the countries where most demining takes place. So the explosives have to either be brought in much more slowly by ship, or fabricated locally. The latter option is often dangerous, because of the lack of skilled people, facilities and quality raw materials, for such delicate work. Another solution is a remote control gas torch that slowly melts through the plastic case of mines, cooks off the plastic explosive, and then sets off a small explosion when the detonator goes off. A set of twenty of these mine melting rigs (which includes an air compressor to put locally obtained natural gas in canisters) cost $12,000 ($600 per unit). The mine melting has worked in tests, but it will take several dozen units out in the field, working for a few months, to see how practical this approach is.

 


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