The Mythbusters took on two interesting myths, that paper armor was as effective as steel, and that lying flat on your back on the surface of the water during an underwater explosion will save your life. The results of the experiments were suprising, and I didn’t even expect it to end the way it did. Jamie and Adam investigated the underwater explosion myth while Tory, Kari, and Grant built paper armor and tested it out agains steel armor.
Jamie and Adam started off small scale and built a 15 foot tall by 1 foot diameter tank, placing sensors along it, and firing a .357 magnum fitted for blanks, to see what the pressure differential would be. After firing several rounds, they came up with a good set of data that seemed to go along with the myth. The sensors higher in the tank registered lower pressures as opposed to the deeper sensors. They then went full scale and detonated ten pounds of TNT three times in a rock quarry pond, with an array of sensors in the water. They detonated the explosives at 150 feet, 100 feet, and at 30 feet from the sensors, at around 15 feet under the water. The sensor array was 25 feet tall, and had sensors to read the pressure from the explosion at depths of 25 feet, 15 feet, 6 feet, 2 feet and 6 inches. The 6 inches was to simulated a person on their back, and at 2 feet to simulate someone treading water. The others were supposed to simulate a diver.
Tory, Kari, and Grant did some research about Chinese paper armor. They found an expert in Napa Valley, CA, that told them that the Chinese used paper armor from around 600 BC to the 19th century. After further research, they came up with a the type of paper, and how the individual pieces may have been made. They used mulberry paper, and used different techniques to create a 1/2″ paper “plate” to test to see what worked the best. They discovered that simple folder paper, folded to 1/2″ gave the most protection when compared to the other techniques. They then created a whole suit of armor out the folder paper “plates” and purchased a period accurate suit of Chinese steel armor as a comparison. The tests involved Tory, Grant, and Kari wearingboth sets ofarmor and running various timed obstacle courses to see how a soldier would fare wearing it in battle. In the final test, the trio attacked two dummies in the suits of armor and assessed the damage caused.
Tory, Kari, and Grant tested the two sets of armor side by side,and fired arrows, attacked it with swords, and used an antique gun to fire rounds at the armor. Surprisingly, the paper armor held up agains all the attacks, although it was a little worse for the wear, and wasn’t quite as durable as the steel armor. Tory fired a Colt .45 at both sets of armor, and the rounds punctured in both cases. The final decision, plausible. The paper armor, although this seems improbable, protected almost as well as the steel, and was much lighter than the steel. With the obstacle courses, due topaper armorbeing lighter, their times were lower than the steel armor. This is an amazing result that rely defies what we think about the properties of paper and steel.
Jamie and Adam, with a strong set of data from the rock quarry, concluded that if you lie flat on your back during an underwater explosion, you will survive, just as the myth states. They confirmed the myth, determining that even at thrity feet away from the epicenter of the blast, as long as you were lying flat on your back you would survive. I didn’t think it would matter, but once again, science proves it can be a tricky thing.