grunt

Review: “Grunt” by Mary Roach

Thumbs up for Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach. Science.

Mary Roach is one of only two or three authors whose books I pre-order. Again, I am not disappointed by this, her book about military science—not guns, but all the other stuff, like uniforms, toilet paper specifications, shark repellent. However, I will say, for the first time, I was grossed out. It takes quite a bit to gross me out. She couldn’t do it with death in Stiff or sex in Bonk or digestion in Gulp. But there were a couple of chapters in Grunt where I was bona fide holding my gorge down. I won’t go into the details. Needless to say, if you like Mary Roach, you’ll read it. But if you’re a newbie, and hilarious science fun sounds up your alley, maybe start with one of her other books.

The chicken gun has a sixty-foot barrel, putting it solidly in the class of an artillery piece. While a four-pound chicken hurtling in excess of 400 miles per hour is a lethal projectile, the intent is not to kill. On the contrary, the chicken gun was designed to keep people alive. The carcasses are fired at jets, standing empty or occupied by “simulated crew,” to test their ability to withstand what he Air Force and the aviation industry, with signature clipped machismo, call birdstrike. The chickens are stunt doubles for geese, gulls, ducks, and the rest of the collective bird mass that three thousand or so times a year collide with Air Force jets, causing $50 million to $80 million in damage, and, once every few years, the lives of the people on board.

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