Monday, December 13, 2010

Thinking of Building a Bomb?

Just a friendly warning: it's really hard to get it right.

We now have one more FAIL in Stockholm. The guy managed to kill only himself, although it appears his intention was otherwise.

That in the latest in a line of FAILs: the Times Square bomber, the underwear bomber, possibly the toner-cartridge bomber, and there are probably some I'm not recalling.

This is a lot more impressive than the single Weather Underground blow-up of the Greenwich Village townhouse bomb factory in 1970, but that pretty much convinced the radicals that bomb-making was not a good idea. That cottage industry has now been globalized, and it appears that religion may induce more persistance or blindness than simple motives of societal revolution. Or maybe the lesson is that white men (guys?) really (not just legally) can't do WMD.

The Weather Underground explosion also pretty much convinced innocent bystanders (pretty much everyone else) that the bombmakers were turkeys. Of course, nobody had regarded the Weather Underground as an instant hazard across the United States, as we have inflated the jihadi threat today. So I guess it will take a longer string of bomber FAILs to do that.

I haven't ever worked directly with explosives, but I know people who have. The stuff is dangerous: unstable and either too hard or too easy to set off. And the consequences of a mistake, as we keep seeing, frequently are the end of the bomber's career.

Maybe I'm just too impressionable. I had a middle-school classmate who was rumored to keep a jar of nitroglycerine under his bed. He was fascinated by explosives. One day he didn't come in to school and was absent for some fairly long time. He returned with a glass eye, which had a sort of middle-school fascination, but did seem to be a downside of that jar of nitroglycerine.

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