Episode 164: Torpedo Tastic

Air Date: May 4, 2011

13th-century Syrians designed a torpedo-like weapon that could travel over the surface of a body of water and explode on impact.


Examining historical records, Adam and Jamie found that the weapon had a pear-shaped upper hull, rear stabilizing fins, and a propellant equivalent to 20 lb (9 kg) of black powder. They each built separate prototypes with different lower hulls and tested them for accuracy, with Jamie’s flat-bottom craft traveling straighter and farther than Adam’s V-hull design.

Next, Adam and Jamie built several full-scale torpedoes, took them to a lake, and set up a target ship 800 ft (244 m) from shore. In the initial accuracy tests, the power of the rockets caused the torpedo to go wildly airborne and miss the target completely. For the next two trials on payload delivery, they used a tether to guide the torpedo, but were unable to score a hit even after they moved the ship to within 200 ft (61 m) of shore. Finally, they removed the tether and reduced the rocket power significantly, allowing them to hit the ship and set it on fire with the incendiary payload. They classified the myth as plausible, since they could find no record of the device being used in combat.

If a truck filled with bottled wine catches fire, the heat can cause the corks to blow out and fly 100 ft (30 m), sounding similar to a machine gun. (Based on published accounts of such an accident.)


The Build Team first investigated wine and bottle type and temperature in the shop. They placed each bottle on a burner and measured the distance each cork flew. Chilling the bottles beforehand increased the distance. The best performer of the still wines was Riesling (30 ft / 9 m), while the best overall was Champagne (50 ft / 15 m).

For a full-scale test, the team loaded a semi trailer with 1,000 bottles of champagne and some Riesling, then set fire to it. All three agreed that the sound of the exploding corks resembled machine guns or firecrackers; however, no corks flew farther than 50 feet. Based on this result, the team declared the myth busted. As an extra demonstration, the team set up a Gatling gun-like rig to rotate the bottles over a burner and launch their corks straight ahead. Grant, dressed in a fire suit, stood in front of the rig and took several direct hits.


  1. Aussie Jack says:

    in the exploding wine myth
    Would there be a risk of explosion when u’re heating the wine bec of raid heat and cooling of the glass at room temp and I would u to retest with c4 and. See what happens when u microwave the wine as well thanks mate Aussie jack

  2. Graham Smyth says:

    I recently attended a semi-trailer fire involving a full load of beer (bottles, cans & kegs), wine and assorted spirits. Interestingly enough the canned beer was rocketing out of the trailer in excess of 30m; the wine bottles were failing due to the heat, as were the liquot bottles. The beer kegs did not explode, just melted the bungs out and out it poured! Perhaps the 5% alcohol volume of Canadian beer makes a difference from the weak 3% of American suds?

  3. Ryan says:

    Yeah I was traveling to Pittsburgh recently and I saw a semi that had caught on fire I had just realized the fact when a cork shattered my windshield and may i say i was much much more than 100 ft.

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