(Roughly) Daily

Beating plowshares into swords…

Bruce Lund has cemented his place in the toy-makers’ hall of fame– he created Tickle Me Elmo and Honey: My Baby Pony.  But as Popular Mechanics reports, the Pentagon wants a piece of him too…

His company’s latest product is a nonlethal weapon for the military nicknamed the Big Hurt…  The problem with existing weapons firing rubber bullets, beanbags and other crowd-control rounds is their velocity. Anything that is effective at 50 yards may be lethal at 5 yards; anything that is safe at 5 yards won’t be fast enough to be effective at 50. Lund’s solution is a weapon that automatically measures the range to the target and varies the muzzle velocity accordingly…

Lund’s Variable Velocity Weapon System (VVWS) uses cans of methylacetylene propadiene gas, the kind that fuels blowtorches and nail guns, sold at hardware stores. “You might view the VVWS as a repurposed nail gun,” Lund says…

There is plenty of interest in future developments of the combustion technology. Lund is talking to the law enforcement community about a handgun version that will provide the sort of nonlethal stopping power currently available only from shotguns. The Department of Homeland Security officials have been talking about a combustion-powered 40-mm grenade launcher to launch sensors that can detect toxic gas or place wireless listening devices. Lund has even been looking into making gas-fired mortars. An adapted VVWS might even have sports applications for skeet or trap shooting, and could be considered a green technology since it needs no cartridge cases and uses no powder.

Read the full article here (and take heart that Lund insists that he’ll return to home base: “Nothing is more fun than making toys.”)

As we rummage in the garage for that old BB gun, we might recall that it was on this date in 1840 that the “Penny Black,” the first adhesive postage stamp, was issued in Great Britain.  A product of postal reforms authored by Sir Rowland Hill, the stamp embodied a number of innovations:  it was pre-payment for delivery, it was affixed to an envelope, and it covered delivery anywhere in the U.K.  Before this point, payment was on delivery (by the recipient), and was charged by the number of sheets in a letter (often carried loose) and by the distance they were carried.

Queen Victoria’s silhouette (All British stamps still bear a likeness of the monarch somewhere in their design, and are the only postage stamps in the world that refrain from naming their country of origin, relying on the monarch’s image to symbolize the United Kingdom.)

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