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Flame on! Spacebattles.com Babies #3 Flame on!

Last updated: January 7, 2002


People on spacebattles.com sometimes wonder why I refer to the Trekkie contingent of their "vs" boards as "babies". Well, there are several reasons. First and foremost, they act like babies, and spacebattles.com harbours them. I know this doesn't mean that everyone at spacebattles.com is a baby, but not every Afghan was a Taliban either. Then there's Gothmog, who makes a Herculean effort to make himself seem more mature than everyone else, but it's a superficial act because under pressure, he still acts like a baby, refusing to obey any rules and then reacting to trouble by stalking away in a huff and muttering that the game is stupid anyway.

But there's more. For as long as I've known about their existence, they have attacked my arguments from afar, and then acted as though my policy of working on my website rather than participating in discussion boards means that I'm running away from them (funny how they scattered the instant I called them out; they're like the kids who stand on the side of the street and throw things at passing cars, and then scatter like roaches the instant somebody stops his car and gets out to confront them).

One of them is actually a co-moderator of the "vs" forums, and his name is IXJac. I don't know whether he's a nice guy or not, but he is a good example of the behaviour I'm talking about, in that he tries to bluff knowledge he doesn't have:


MW used the Young Jedi Knight series where a spear was thrown at a stormtrooper from a droid arm.The spear imparted enough momentum to fling him back against a nearby wall,however,only a nick was imparted.He took this calculation to show that SA fire shouldn't hurt the stormtrooper.

This is how my name often comes up in "vs" discussions across the Web. There's nothing wrong with what he's doing here; he is mentioning my name but not attempting to use it as proof. He seems to have a general understanding of what I did, and why. Therefore, a rebuttal should be focused on the point, not on me. However, as we shall see, the rebuttal will focus on me, as per standard spacebattles.com baby modus operandi. Instead of debating the point, it just becomes another excuse to shout that "Mike Wong" is wrong!" Indeed, even when PainRack refutes IXJac's argument with a technical point that has nothing to do with my site, IXJac will stubbornly keep the focus on me, repeating his mantra that "Mike Wong is wrong!" In fact, as the thread wears on, it becomes more focused on my character rather than the technical issues, which is also quite typical.


And in doing so he made a serious error.

For one thing he argues that because the spear clearly has greater momentum than any bullet, no bullet will be able to penetrate the armour. This ignores the fact that momentum has no bearing on the penetration ability of a bullet. I can punch you with more momentum than a 5.56mm bullet imparts. So what? Does that mean I can punch through a sheet of ten guage steel plate like a 5.56 bullet can? 'Course not.

The spear has not even a fraction the penetrating power of a modern assault rifle, even if thrown by a droid. Historically a spear thrown at a steel brestplate ALSO bounced off with merely a scratch, while a musket fired at the same armour would usually punch clean through. Upping this a level to spears thrown by droids and bullets fired by assault rifles the comparison remains. Why?

Well, In both cases yes the spear imparts greater momentum but this is irrelevant. What is important is the KE. The spear may even have greater KE in the right situation - but it will deliver it in a highly elastic collision . That is, when the spear hits if it meets any real resistance it's going to expend much of the KE along its length as it warps and twists - relatively little of the KE will end up being delivered to the armour at the point of impact. A bullet on the other hand is designed to create as in-elastic a collision as possible, so as it meets resistance it continues driving forward, spreading its impact over a still relatively small area, thus achieving far superior penetration.

MW's conclusions are flawed. Not only does he incorrectly link momentum to penetration, but he also does not consider the differences in impact dynamics of a spear and a bullet.

Nobody's perfect, and anybody can make a mistake. A mistake doesn't necessarily destroy someone's credibility, and I'll freely admit that I make mistakes from time to time. However, this is not one of those times.

There's a reason that I wish laypeople wouldn't try to bluff their way through physics. It's annoying, it's laughable, and when you point out that they're bluffing their way through and they obviously haven't got a clue what they're doing, they get petulant and complain that you're mean, you're elitist, and you're throwing your weight around (gee, maybe they should just stop exaggerating their own knowledge, since that's dishonest).

Anyway, his argument betrays typical scientific ignorance (can't these clowns come up with a single person who knows his stuff?), and he's clearly bluffing, because he proposes his amateurish interpretation of physics without even the slightest hint of ambiguity (as if he's seriously studied the subject), and without the slightest doubt that the mistake must be mine, and not his (as if a mechanical engineer who specialized in fracture mechanics wouldn't know what makes things break!). Allow me to paraphrase his argument, which has only two points:

  1. "Momentum has no bearing on armour penetration; only KE matters."

  2. "The spear was a highly elastic collision, while a bullet is a highly inelastic collision. Therefore, the spear is not a good test of armour."

Let us examine both of these laughable "points" in order. First, he claims that momentum has nothing to do with armour penetration, while KE does. This is one of the funniest things I've ever heard. Momentum and kinetic energy are tightly related, and in fact, kinetic energy is merely the integral of momentum with respect to velocity, as Newton pointed out a long time ago (I wonder if IXJac knows calculus; momentum is mv, and KE is ½mv²; do I really need to spell this out for him?)

In any case, momentum and KE are obviously so closely related that it is absolutely ludicrous to imagine that one would be completely irrelevant to collisions while the other controls them. You can use either of them to figure out whether an impactor will penetrate a piece of armour, and it's simply a question of which method you'd prefer, or which type of information is more readily available. Whenever we compute deformations and other forms of material failure, we can employ strain energy methods (compute the area under the stress-strain curve, which represents strain energy, compare this to the kinetic energy of the impactor), or alternatively, we can employ stress analysis (compute the impulse necessary to decelerate the impactor, and then divide the resulting force by the load-bearing area). Kinetic energy is used for the former, and momentum can be used for the latter. The latter is more of a "first principles" method, while the former is simpler.

This kind of multiple-method situation is quite common in physics. For example, if you drop an object from 10 metres up, you can use either energy balances or mechanistic methods to figure out its velocity at the time of impact. Using energy balances, you would determine that its gravitational potential energy is mgh, or roughly 98m J. Therefore, it would gain 98m J of kinetic energy, and if you plug that into the KE formula, 98m = ½mv² therefore the m terms cancel out, and you get v² = 2(98), therefore v = 14 m/s. Using mechanistic methods, you would determine that the drop height is equal to ½at², where a = g. Therefore, 10 = ½(9.8)t², therefore t = 1.43 seconds. After 1.43 seconds at 9.8 m/s², the object would have accelerated to ... (surprise!) 14 m/s. In other words, there's generally more than one way to skin a cat, which is very important for engineers since we must tailor our methods to the information that happens to be at hand, rather than demanding information that works with a preferred method.

It's obvious that he knows from a little bit of independent research that KE is often used to estimate armour penetration. However, it's equally obvious that he doesn't really understand the underlying physics, or he would know that it's not the only method. Instead, he chose to bluff, and assume that since KE is used for the particular method he saw, KE must be the only method in existence (interesting leap in logic, requiring both ignorance and arrogance). This is one of the big differences between technicians/laypeople and engineers/scientists; the technician or the layperson might be able to figure out how to do something with enough effort, but the engineer or the scientist must understand why. This is why scientifically ignorant fanboys often make fools of themselves when they try to do things which require knowledge of applied science, as opposed to mindless regurgitation of information he saw in books or websites.

His second point is just stupid. Yes, an inelastic collision does more work than an elastic collision ... if all other factors are equal. But in this case, they are not equal! The spear has far more momentum than any bullet from any kind of small-arms fire. We're not talking about a 10% difference, or even a 50% difference; we're talking about orders of magnitude! Moreover, his conclusions are backwards; the spear impact was highly elastic because the target was so strong! If you hit a very strong object and a very soft object with the same impactor, the soft object will experience a highly inelastic collision (lots of permanent deformation and KE converted into strain energy), while the strong object will experience a largely elastic collision (very little permanent deformation, very little KE converted into strain energy). In other words, all other factors being equal, a highly elastic collision means that the object is stronger! He has this ass-backwards, and he somehow concludes that the largely elastic nature of the stormtrooper armour incident casts doubt on its strength. This is the result of layperson thinking. When people think of elasticity, they tend to think of rubber bands. But from a mechanical standpoint, even a piece of steel is elastic (that's why you can make springs out of steel). The area under the elastic portion of its stress-strain curve will reveal how much energy it can "store" during the collision, or from a mechanical standpoint, its Young's Modulus tells us how much force it would take to overcome its yield strength and push it into inelastic, ie- permanent deformation. By assuming that elasticity indicates weakness or inconsequentiality, he is betraying his lack of knowledge ... again. But he's still utterly confident in what he's saying; I can't help but wonder if he sincerely thinks his part-time web research is superior to my years of training in this very subject, or whether he's consciously bluffing.

Also notice how he didn't even bother trying to calculate the column buckling stress for a metallic spear before assuming that like magic, it could make the problem go away. How soft does he think this metallic spear is? If you hit someone with a heavy metal rod so hard that the rod buckles from the impact, can you seriously expect him to be unharmed? This is a tactic that I've also seen from creationists; identify a mechanism which can potentially explain away a problem, and then assume that the magnitude of this mechanism will suffice, without even bothering to verify it. Of course, there are two reasons that they don't verify it:

  1. They don't know how.

  2. They're fearful that if they actually do it properly, they'll find that the numbers don't work out the way they'd like. Best to sweep it under the rug.

The physics of inelastic collisions are simple. Momentum is always conserved. Kinetic energy is not conserved (some of it becomes deformation energy). The difference between initial combined KE and final combined KE represents the deformation energy applied to the metal, and this can be compared to the area under its stress-strain curve. Alternatively, the reaction force applied by the armour in order to decelerate the impactor can be divided by the load-bearing area and then compared to the ultimate tensile stress of the material. Either way, you can't get off the hook for a high momentum collision so easily; if the impact point is small (as it would be for a metallic spear-point or a bullet), then the pressure is high, and the armour will fail. The fact that stormtrooper armour does not fail under such conditions indicates extremely strong materials.

He gives some examples of high-momentum objects which do not do as much damage as low-momentum objects, but his explanation ("KE matters, momentum does not") is simply wrong. The reason armour-piercing bullets can punch through armour that would stop a block of wood with the same momentum is simple, and frankly intuitive to anyone with half a brain: they focus their impact upon a smaller area. There is no need to make ridiculous (and totally wrong) statements about momentum being irrelevant to collisions when there's such an obvious explanation staring at you in the face! If you use a hardened impactor with a sharp tip, all of the reaction force must be applied by a very small area of the armour, thus greatly increasing the stresses. And this is the key point: it is the sharp tip and small diameter that matter, not IXJac's ridiculous little homespun theory that momentum is irrelevant to collisions. Why does he think anti-vehicle rounds often use depleted uranium and/or tungsten? The great density of uranium and tungsten focuses the reaction force upon a smaller area! This spear had a sharp tip, made with the high performance metals available to a spacefaring civilization, and was thrown with enormous momentum, yet it barely nicked the armour despite hitting much harder than small arms fire, so it is clear that stormtrooper armour will stop small-arms fire. If it had penetrated the armour and stopped its forward progress only when the spear-head widened out, then IXJac would have a case, but this didn't happen. When I made the original statement, it seemed so painfully obvious that I couldn't imagine anyone being stupid enough to dispute it. However, one should never underestimate the foolishness of a motivated Trekkie.


Quoted from PainRack: "The AT-AT armour is thick.Very thick."

Actually when Luke slices the belly open it can be clearly sen that the armour in that area is maybe 5cm thick at best; closer to 2cm. Since that's where most tank fire will be impacting at closer ranges ...

This is a good example of why I don't participate in discussion forums any more. There are numerous sub-threads in this debate, and it's hard to keep track. Someone injected a sub-thread about AT-AT combat effectiveness at some point, and someone else makes the simple, matter-of-fact statement that AT-AT armour is extremely thick. Naturally, IXJac contradicts with the thickness of the underside hatch that Luke cut through. By that token, I could go up to a WW2-era Iowa-class battleship, point at a thin hatch somewhere (or a bridge window), and say "See? No heavy armour!"

It's an example of the red herring fallacy, and it's one of the most common problems in spacebattles.com's "vs" newsgroups. No discussion ever stays on track for long, because even if someone does post a reasonable idea, you'll get ten responses that are totally off topic, five responses that deal with the topic but in a fallacious way, and perhaps one that deals directly with the topic but gets drowned out by the noise.


Stormtrooper armour will obviously provide some protection, but sustained fire escpecially from section and platoon level weapons will score penetrations, and given the relative immobility of the armour wearer and the rate of fire acheivable with modern weapons it won't take all that long to do either. Sure the armour will likely prevent immediate fatal damage, but it's only a matter of time, and given that the armour turns the trooper into a lumbering highly visible hulk the shooter will have all the time he needs.

I mean, a C-6 (FN-MAG) can kill light armoured vehicles. We're not talking spitballs here. A 25mm autocannon is so much overkill it lacks any humour. Those things have more power than that observed from AT-ST fire at Endor.

Also, remember that if they're equipped as we in Canada are, at least every second infantryman will be carrying a Light Anti-Tank Weapon with a 66mm armour penetrating HEAT warhead, and at least one per section (squad) will have a 40mm grenade launcher. . .

Yet another example of the red herring fallacy. Someone claims that small-arms fire won't kill a stormtrooper, and the retort is made that heavy weapons such as 25mm guns, anti-tank weapons or grenade launchers would do the trick. Small problem: those things are not small-arms fire! Therefore, the rebuttal is totally irrelevant to the original point, and it serves only to decrease the signal to noise ratio.

Worse yet, he seems to ignore the conclusions that follow from his own statements. If he admits that he needs to use heavy weapons in order to take down stormtroopers, then he's admitting that they enjoy a huge tactical advantage! After all, you don't need a 25mm gun, an anti-tank weapon, or a grenade launcher to punch a hole in the silly red pajamas worn by Federation ground troops, do you?

Yet again, I note that the spacebattles.com "vs" forums do not resolve a whole hell of a lot, because one of the moderators himself seems to be bent on knocking the train off its rails.


Quoted from IXJac: "And in doing so he made a serious error ..."

Not really. What we should be discussing here should actually be the impulse. As a high momentum is imparted, a high impulse is also thus present on the tip of the spear. As such,the pressure at that point is very high. So, the penetrative abilities of this spear tip is also very high.

Beside, I agree with you. It will provide some protection, something along the lines of instead of one shot one kill, a couple of shots to achieve a fatality.

There is some contention about what Luke did to the AT-AT. You see,it has been speculated that he attacked a hatch instead of the belly armour itself. But, there isn't direct proof. While the area where he hitches himself to has a hatch as some models and blueprints show, it's not neccesarily that he did slice the hatch open.

Here, PainRack tries to refute IXJac's ignorant statements, and his retort is correct: a high momentum impactor creates very high pressure at the point of impact, and it is pressure (ie- stress) which causes a piece of metal to fail. However, look at how many posts have been thrown into the mix since then; the thread is rapidly diluting, and one has to scroll back for a while to see what PainRack is replying to. And people wonder why I prefer to debate via E-mail, not in discussion forums ...


A hatch, eh? Nice point to aim for then. A SABOT penetrating through the hatch would likely cause much damage within.

Classic Trekkie "put myself in the perfect spot, and don't ask how I got there" tactic. You can make up your own rebuttal at leisure. For example, someone standing on top of an M1A2 Abrams can theoretically use bolt-cutters and a handgun to kill the driver. Does this mean that the M1A2 is a useless fighting vehicle?

Some vehicles are designed for long range fire (an AT-AT fired at the Rebel shield generator on Hoth from a range greater than 17 km), and the nature of compromise inherent in such a weapon platform means that you're liable to need escorts to protect them from close-in attackers (gee- could that explain why the AT-AT's were accompanied by AT-ST's?)


Ok, why should US Army even think shooting AT-AT's armour. It's just stupid to shoot to that place where armour is strongest. Like someone said: Just tip the damn thing over! And if it need US Navy's ships to do it... why? I think that a division of Abrahams and huge pile of AT-guns should do the trick. Just lay down the mines, hide soldiers somewhere and then shoots those long legs with all what they have got. Those things...will...tip...over. And if they don't... well... run!

This guy is ... well, actually, I don't know if I mind this guy all that much, because he obviously doesn't take himself all that seriously. However, his point is still wrong; you can't assume the ability to knock over an AT-AT without knowing its mass (which may very well be enormous), since its mass will determine the force necessary to knock it over. As for using an entire division of battle tanks and a "huge pile of AT-guns" to take down a single AT-AT, even if it worked, you would still be staring at defeat, because the need for such a large numerical imbalance places you at a serious strategic disadvantage.


Quoted from PainRack: "Not really. What we should be discussing here should actually be the impulse ..."

No, actually we shouldn't.

You're focussing on the fact that the target was thrown against the wall, but remember this is not directly related to the penetrating power of the item that struck him. A large man could also apply the same force and throw the target against a wall equally hard with a punch or push, yet that means nothing for what would be needed to penetrate the armour. Impulse will only give you the force applied over time. That says nothing about penetration. Weapons do not penetrate armour based on force and pressure, they do so based on KE. Force will be applied but its not the key consideration.

KE is the vital consideration when discussing penetration.

Momentum gives you the force that threw the target against the wall, yes, but this is not directly relevant to solving the question of penetration. An attack could deal trememdous amounts of force with an extremely high impulse, and still lack any real penetrating power.

By equating momentum and its considerations to armour penetration, MW is making an error.

This is classic. Somebody please write this down: "Weapons do not penetrate armour based on force and pressure"- IXJac. Why doesn't he simply tattoo "scientific ignoramus, cackling with glee" on his forehead?

Pop quiz, class: what makes a piece of metal fail? Stress. And what is stress? Force divided by unit area, ie- pressure. Have you ever heard of the terms "ultimate tensile stress" or "yield stress", which are found on materials spec sheets as a way of defining their strength? How about "shear stress", "tensile stress", or "bearing stress", which are found in materials science? Does he ever wonder why they call it "stress analysis"? It is stress, ie- pressure that makes a piece of metal fail. KE is simply an alternate method of figuring it out, but at the mechanical level, make no mistake: it is stress that causes structural failure.

Again, he tries to generate examples to weakly support his case. Not only are his examples wildly exaggerated (have you ever heard of someone being punched so hard that he flew across the room?), but he ignores the fact that it is the focus and projectile hardness which affects the penetration effectiveness in these examples, not his bizarre little homespun theory that KE completely controls collisions while momentum has no effect whatsoever. I suspect that he would like to try to polarize the debate so that it appears as if I think the opposite: momentum matters and KE does not. Worse yet, it appears that he thinks my statement on the spear incident was intended to be a generalized statement covering any and all types of collisions. Why did I mention the spear's momentum instead of its KE? Obviously, because the spear's momentum is easier to figure out in this case! Why assume this was intended as some sort of blanket statement that momentum is a "jkekfactor"? This kind of "leap to generalized conclusion" mentality is old hat for Trekkies; after all, Riker once said that a laser wouldn't even penetrate their navigational deflector, so newsgroup Trekkies leapt up and down in unison, shouting that any laser is useless against any nav deflector, under any circumstances. It's more complicated than that, and there's no single number you can use to magically figure out armour penetration.

This is the problem with the spacebattles.com Trekkie contingent in a nutshell. They're too arrogant to recognize their own limitations, and they are so buoyed by their little clique that in this case, he thought he could boldly contradict a mechanical engineer who specialized in fracture mechanics ... on matters of fracture mechanics! Did it even occur to him that I might know something he doesn't? When you take someone with marginal knowledge, and give him an unwarranted level of confidence by surrounding him with like-minded people, he might start to believe that his pitiful knowledge actually means something. People there spend so much time bashing me personally that they forget that unlike them, I'm not bluffing; I actually did go to university, and I actually did study these subjects in detail. Bluffing can only take you so far, kiddies.

His Divine Shadow

Quoted from IXJac: "And in doing so he made a serious error ..."

I sent this to him, since you felt he should not be made aware of it. This is what he said:

[Snip your explanation in that other thread you said this]
ROTFLMAO!!! He thinks momentum has nothing whatsoever to do with impactors? That's like saying force has nothing to do with it either. In physics, there's more than one way to skin a cat (not that someone like IXJac would recognize this).

Of course thats all I got from him.

I recall this. He snipped IXJac's original argument and E-mailed it to me. I laughed my ass off at its awe-inspiring stupidity, so I decided to send a somewhat cryptic rebuttal. I elaborated on that rebuttal in this webpage, but I was curious whether IXJac would be smart enough to figure out what the short version meant.


Quoted from HDS: "ROTFLMAO!!! He thinks momentum has nothing whatsoever to do with impactors? That's like saying force has nothing to do with it either. In physics, there's more than one way to skin a cat (not that someone like IXJac would recognize this)"

Notice how he doesn't actually argue the point though? That, on ASVS, is called a concession.

You see, he's using a straw man argument, coupled with a bit of ad-hominem just for kicks. Of course momentum is important when dealing with a collision, as does force. That was not the point, and that's not what I argued. The point is that a high level of force and momentum does not equate to a high degree of penetration.

Again, the key factor here is KE, not momentum.

It would be nice if he'd just be gracious and correct his error. Nice, but certainly not expected.

Well, I was wondering if IXJac would be smart enough to figure out the rebuttal, and of course, he wasn't (gee, I'm shocked). In fact, he seems to think there was no rebuttal at all. He calls it a "concession" that my rebuttal wasn't spelled out in excruciating detail for him, even though it did encapsulate the problem with his argument in a nutshell: his assumption that force has nothing to do with structural failure, and that the KE method is the only method of determining whether a piece of metal will fail. He's looking for an excuse ... any excuse to declare victory, even though he never even had the balls to confront me in the first place with this "error".

Notice how he also tries invoking the names of some logical fallacies. The only thing worse than someone who commits logical fallacies on a regular basis is someone who knows the names of logical fallacies and simply hurls them at random, regardless of whether they apply. "Strawman"? "Ad hominem?" At what point did my brief rebuttal distort his position? Was it wrong to say that IXJac thought momentum was irrelevant, given his incredible claim that "momentum has no bearing on the penetration ability of a bullet"? I suppose muzzle velocity is irrelevant too; it isn't the only factor, but to say that it has "no bearing" is simply insane. And since it directly criticized his arguments by mentioning his ignorance of force and his refusal to consider the possibility of there being "more than one way to skin a cat", it was certainly not an ad hominem (although I've found that a lot of spacebattles.com babies think that an insult tacked onto a rebuttal somehow makes the rebuttal into an ad hominem fallacy, because they clearly don't understand what the ad hominem fallacy is).

His Divine Shadow

Quoted from IXJac: "Notice how he doesn't actually argue the point though? ..."

Who's to say he will not put up your argument? He did say something about another SB page on its way.

While I appreciate the fact that I have defenders on spacebattles.com, they are obviously nowhere near as aggressive as my detractors (no slight against my defenders; it's more of a criticism of my detractors, who seem to have all the aggression in the world ... until I come looking for them).


Quoted from HDS: Who's to say he will not put up your argument? He did say something about another SB page on its way.

The fact that he doesn't even deign to make a polite response is a bit of a tip off.

It's clear that they'll take any excuse, no matter how flimsy, to attack me. In this case, he tries to make hay out of the fact that I didn't make a polite response ... but to what? He never even sent me his argument! I only heard about it from a third party, and I dismissed it as the obvious buffoonery that it was. But of course, there's a reason that IXJac never sent me his argument. Despite all of his bluster, he knows that he's simply out of his league if he attempts to debate me directly, so it's easier to heckle from the sidelines. Poor little babies ... they so badly want to be treated like grown-ups, don't they?

PS. I know that spacebattles.com's "we hate StarDestroyer.Net" contingent is tired of being called "babies", but what do they expect? Look at their behaviour after the Gothmog debate: "he didn't really lose!", or "he only quit because he was tired of being insulted whenever he lied!" or "Wong is being vindictive and petty for deriding Gothmog's failure to take responsibility for his own words and actions!". It's pathetic. If I didn't call them "babies", what else would I call them? For Christ's sake, Gothmog was the best they could do!


When I wrote the above critique of IXJac's laughable physics mutterings, I never dreamed that he would be arrogant or foolish enough to actually defend his statements. However, it would appear that I overestimated his intelligence. After being made to look foolish in public, like many of his "We Hate StarDestroyer.Net" board-mates, he actually had the temerity to try again! Wait till you see what he wrote:


My comments about momentum were in reference to his statement: "Moreover, no real-life assault rifle fires projectiles with anywhere near enough momentum to throw a man around like a rag doll, so this means that stormtrooper armour is basically impervious to present-day small-arms fire"

If he wants Red Herrings this is about as crimson as they get. Mike is arguing that since the spear has greater momentum than any bullet it will also have greater penetrating power. This is pure bunk.

Notice how he tries to refute my detailed explanation by simply restating his original argument, without any regard whatsoever for my criticism that the likelihood of material failure is determined through stress analysis, despite his bizarre assertion that force and pressure have nothing to do with it. Notice how he ignores the fact, repeatedly stated, that all other things being equal, an object of so much greater momentum will have greater penetrating power. Unless that spear was made of very soft metal or had a very wide tip (neither of which is likely), its vastly superior momentum would indeed give it superior penetrating power. I explained why, and he retorts by simply denying without explanation. And they wonder why I think they're beneath me ...

Anyone who knows anything about modern firearms can quickly tell you that when dealing with bullets and armour the momentum of an impact has no direct bearing on the ability of the round to penetrate and kill. Mike can dance around the issue all he wants, but the point is the p=mv is not the key equation when dealing with penetration, KE=1/2mv^2 is.

This is fascinating. Notice how he appeals to the authority of firearms experts, while simultaneously dismissing the statements of a licensed mechanical engineer. But that kind of hypocrisy is not the real issue here: the real issue is his statement that momentum has "no direct bearing" on penetration. He has repeated this mantra over and over (to the point that it's starting to become a tautology for him), but he has never justified it. Can you predict penetration based on momentum alone? Of course not. You need velocity, material characteristics, etc. But to say that it is irrelevant is ridiculous.

It is actually quite easy to show that all other things being equal, vastly superior momentum does equal superior penetrating power (other factors become more significant when the momentum difference is small, but that's not the case here). I had explained how that was done in my previous article, but it's pretty clear that like a small child with learning disabilities, IXJac needs special attention before he will pick up such a simple concept.

OK boys and girls, I'm going to let you in on a little secret about thermodynamics and energy balances that ignorant fanboys like IXJac don't seem to realize: thermodynamics is good for determining limits, but it is utterly useless for predicting what will happen during a process.

Was that a scary statement? Especially from a guy who champions the use of thermodynamics in determining limits? Well, it shouldn't be. Science is a lot more complicated than people like IXJac make it out to be (gee, maybe that's why it takes years of study to get a degree in it; hint hint). The energy balances used in thermodynamics give us a "snapshot", ie- a "before and after" state comparison. By comparing the "before" energy state to the "after" energy state, we can determine limits for what could or could not happen during the process. However, that is all we can determine. Energy balances do not tell us how close we will come to the lower or upper limit. They do not tell us what happens during the process; they give us the "big picture", but not the detailed analysis. They are blissfully ignorant of the actual mechanisms behind a process.

That is actually a good thing when you are attempting to determine limits, which is quite common in sci-fi analyses. However, it is a very bad thing when you want to make more specific predictions. It is stress analysis which tells us what will happen during an impact, not energy balances. To be more specific, if a bullet has 3 kJ of kinetic energy, we know that it can do up to 3 kJ of work on the target. However, we do not know how efficiently this energy will be transferred. Perhaps 80% of this energy will become deformation energy in the target, or perhaps 0.1% of it will become deformation energy in the target, and without stress analysis or empirical correlations, we have no way of knowing. Firearms experts can figure out penetration using KE not because everything else is irrelevant, but because all of the necessary correlations have already been determined through experiment, so they have rules of thumb that they can use (unless it's a new type of projectile or armour).

It is quite possible to have an impact with a very high KE that still yeilds an very low momentum. For the purposes of calculating armour penetration, momentum is only important in that figuring its value out can allow you to determine the KE.

If he feels like willfully misinterpreting me and taking an antagonistic approach to this, that's his look out. More fool him.

IXJac seems to feel that I'm "misinterpreting" his clear statements that momentum is irrelevant in collision physics (he even called it a "red herring"!) However, it is becoming more clear where his bluff comes from. He obviously hasn't got a shred of physics knowledge, but it would seem that he is going by the practices of firearms manufacturers rather than physicists or engineers. Firearms manufacturers invariably list kinetic energy figures for their guns rather than momentum (although you can easily figure out momentum from bullet mass and muzzle velocity), and he interprets this practice as some kind of authoritative statement that momentum doesn't matter. It doesn't seem to occur to him that it's simply a convention, and was hardly intended to represent some kind of public education campaign on collision physics!

Yes, it is possible to have very high KE with very low momentum (for example, subatomic particles moving at relativistic velocities). It's also possible to have high momentum and relatively low KE (a huge object moving very slowly). But that has nothing to do with the fact that, unless the situations are hopelessly dissimilar, an impactor of much greater momentum will have greater penetrating power! A medium-velocity spear and a high-velocity bullet are not dissimilar enough to overcome a momentum difference of two orders of magnitude. In his original argument, he skipped by this fact by listing numerous high-momentum impacts in which all other things were not equal (ie- red herrings), and a few other situations which he thought were high momentum impacts (ie- a punch or a knife impact, in which it is actually the driving force behind the arm which causes most of the damage, rather than its momentum or KE). But the best is yet to come, because he seems bound and determined to embarrass himself on principles of basic high-school physics. Yes, KE matters. But how can anyone in his right mind say that force and pressure are irrelevant?


Lets make this brutally clear - the momentum of a .01kg bullet moving at 1,000 m/s is piddly. That's whole whopping 10 Newtons of force when it hits. You need more than that to pick up your telephone reciever. You can poke someone in the chest with more momentum, more force than that.

Now this is just plain funny. IXJac is a walking, talking testament to the failure of our education system. I knew that educational standards were dropping, but this comes as a surprise even to me. You see, he seems to think that momentum is measured in units of Newtons. Small problem: Newtons are a unit of force, not momentum!

Let's correct his laughable attempt at physics, shall we? A 0.01kg bullet moving at 1000 m/s will have 10 kg*m/s of momentum, not 10 Newtons of force. And 10 kg*m/s of momentum is not piddly! If you want to get a grasp of what 10 kg*m/s is, imagine being hit by a beer can moving at 60 miles per hour! Is that "piddly?" If that beer can was a solid block of steel with a sharpened tip, would he be willing to stand in front of it with a bulletproof vest on? How about a 5 pound sledge hammer being swung at 15 feet per second? If that sledge had a sharpened tip on it, would he be willing to trust a bulletproof vest to stop the blow? In both of these cases, the KE has decreased dramatically (from 5000 J for the bullet to 143 J for the beer can and a seemingly laughable 22 J for the sledge hammer). But the momentum is the same, and in any collision, it is momentum that is conserved, not KE. Momentum drives the reaction force requirement, which in turn determines stress levels. This is not to say that KE is irrelevant (if I said that, I would be as bad as him!), but its relevant only in the same sense that momentum is: given otherwise similar conditions, increased KE will correlate with penetration power. One can concoct lots of grossly dissimilar scenarios in which KE or momentum does not correlate with penetration power, but that's mere sophistry, and really has nothing to do with the point. If we want to go down that road, we could look at the kinetic energy of air, and then conclude that a sustained wind should have more penetration power than a bullet!

Perhaps IXJac could back up his bold statements about the insignificance of a bullet's momentum by volunteering to put on a bulletproof vest and then take on a 60 mph beer can-sized projectile or a case-hardened 5 pound sledge hammer with a stabbing tip. Elementary physics tells us that either would probably cause fatal injuries, but he seems soooo confident that momentum doesn't matter ...

Does that mean a poke in the chest is more deadly, more able to penetrate armour than a bullet? Come on. But that's what Mike is insinuating with his quote. That momentum is the key factor. It isn't. Virtually any weaspon, especially the primitive ones, will strike with more momentum than a bullet: A knife, a sword, a bat, a spear ...

His dismissal of "primitive" weapons is premature and foolish; a knife can be more deadly than a bullet in some situations, and in fact, you can kill a man by stabbing him through a Kevlar vest with a knife. The same is true of a sword or a spear! Let's grind some numbers, OK? An NIJ level-IIIA vest will stop a round from a .44 Magnum, immortalized by Dirty Harry Callaghan as " the most powerful handgun in the world" :) A .44 Magnum round (15g, 420 m/s) has roughly 6.3 kg*m/s of momentum, and more than 1300 J of KE. However, an NIJ level-IIIA vest will not stop a knife (knife-proof vests are a special item; you can see commercial examples here). Moreover, even military body armour won't stop a knife! The average person can deliver around 15-20 m/s with a knife, which typically weighs around half a kilogram. This gives us 7.5 kg*m/s of momentum, and roughly 56 J of KE. Even the California "ice-pick" protection standard stipulates only 115 J of KE to simulate a two-handed stab, and here's where we run into a small problem for IXJac's argument that everything but KE (ie- force, momentum, and pressure) is irrelevant: the knife, with a momentum advantage and driving force but less than 5% of the bullet's KE, will penetrate where the bullet does not! Of course, one could also concoct scenarios in which a penetrator of greater KE and lower momentum will succeed where a low KE/high momentum penetrator does not, but that merely underscores my original point that you can't just simplify everything to a single variable. In the case of the spear incident, the momentum difference was so large and the physics of the situation were similar enough (sharpened metal tips, much less than one order of magnitude difference in velocity) that it was obvious the spear would be more dangerous (particularly in light of a typical spear-head shape, which is more like a knife blade than a bullet).

When I first mentioned the spear-throwing incident, I didn't bother listing all of the numbers involved because frankly, I didn't think anyone would be asinine enough to demand them. However, they do work out, as we shall see later. But this is a recurring problem: people who demand that you spell out every damned thing in excruciating detail. IXJac's argument is based not only on his ignorance of physics, but also on the fact that I used the relatively huge momentum of the spear to show that stormtrooper armour is much stronger than modern rifle armour, but I didn't put in a carefully worded disclaimer that this should not be taken as a universal law which applies to every conceivable situation in which one object has more momentum than another.

Of the two problems with his argument, the larger problem is still his ignorance of physics (I would hope that most readers can easily see through the strawman portion of his argument on their own). Notice the statement: "that momentum is the key factor". Who says there's a such thing as a "key factor"? He is implying that I think momentum makes all other factors irrelevant, which is ridiculous. It is one of many important factors, such as velocity, deceleration distance, and material characteristics. In my page, I merely pointed out that the high momentum spear in question would have more penetration power than a bullet of much less momentum. This is frankly a no-brainer, since the spear-point would have similar mechanical properties to the point of a bullet (if not far superior, given their level of technological advancement compared to our own), and obviously quite a high velocity in order to hurl a man across a room (conservation of momentum dictates that a low-mass impactor must have rather high velocity to impart significant velocity to a high mass target). His attempts to disprove it (conjuring up completely dissimilar impactors such as wooden baseball bats) are so amateurishly silly that I find myself smiling at the thought of them.

The key factor is that the bullet strikes with 5,000 Joules of Kinetic Energy, delivered in a largely in-elastic collision to a point at most 3mm across (and that's assuming the bullet pancakes).

Poor little high school child, trying to bluff his way through physics even after being publicly embarrassed once ...

There is no such thing as a "key factor". There is only a proper method for performing stress analysis, and he isn't using it. He seems to think that you can ignore all other factors if you have 5 kJ of kinetic energy, inelasticity, and a 3mm contact point. However, if the impactor is much softer than the armour, all of the inelastic deformation will occur in the bullet, and little or no work will be done on the armour. The momentum will still be transferred, but the result will be completely different. To put it bluntly, if you made a pointy 0.1kg projectile out of styroform and fired it at 1000 m/s, it would have just as much kinetic energy as the rifle bullet. But would it punch through armour? Remember that velocity is relative. As far as the bullet and the plate of armour are concerned, it makes no difference whether the bullet hits stationary armour at 1000 m/s or a flying piece of armour hits a stationary bullet at 1000 m/s. The stronger piece wins, which is why armour-piercing rounds are distinguished by a much harder casing (and in some cases, exotic materials such as uranium or tungsten penetrators). In fact, photographs of rifle bullets hitting very hard armour show that the bullet disintegrates upon impact, while the armour is virtually untouched.

If you must look for a "key factor", the closest you're going to come is material strength, which is expressed in units of stress, or pressure. It is stress that determines whether a piece of metal will break, and momentum, kinetic energy, impact velocity, deflection etc. are only useful in that they help you calculate the stresses imposed on the materials in question.

That is why we always perform mechanical analysis in engineering. Energy only gives us the limit; it does not tell us how close we will come to that limit. Yes, a bullet with 5 kJ of kinetic energy can potentially do 5 kJ of work on a piece of armour. However, if we work only with energy, we have no way of knowing whether it will actually do 5 kJ of work, or 0 kJ of work. That is why, in the study of engineering, we learn mechanical methods first, followed by energy methods. Energy methods help us determine boundaries and limits, but they are not the primary method of analysis, particularly when we want detailed information on process. As far as the energy balance is concerned, it makes no difference whether the bullet pancakes harmlessly against your body armour, slows down and stops in Kevlar, or blows your heart out. The work is the same in all cases, and the energy balances out in all cases. Obviously, we need something a bit more detailed.

In fact, believe it or not, strain energy is not the biggest limiting factor in typical armour penetration; in order to shear out a 3mm wide hole through a metal plate (let's say it's 5mm thick), you need only overcome UTS for a load-bearing area of 4.7E-5 m². If we take a piece of aircraft aluminum (say, T651), UTS is less than 500 MPa and maximum elongation is only 10%. In perfect shear, you would get 0.5mm deformation before failure, and well under 250 kJ/m². For a 4.7E-5 m² load-bearing area, this works out to less than twelve joules! Mind you, you wouldn't get perfect shear; it would be a combination of shear and bending moment, which causes the plate to buckle inwards, and there's that 45 degree trick too, but I'm just trying to give a rough idea of the sort of magnitudes we're looking at.


Now, as to my specific calculations, I'm quite willing to refine them as they were done very much on the fly and and hoc, and quite probably DO contain errors. I have no problem with that - it just means more digging through textbooks.

"More" digging through textbooks? That implies that he's already done some, and considering his belief that momentum is measured in Newtons and that force and pressure are irrelevant to mechanical failure, it's pretty obvious he's never seriously looked at a physics textbook in his life.

The key point remains though, and that needs no calculations to prove: Mike is equating momentum with the penetrating power of modern weapons, and in that he is wrong.

This is actually a good case study in rhetorical technique. Notice the use of the tautology. In every single post, he pounds on his mantra that momentum is irrelevant. He has never produced any calculations to support this claim (he even claims that they are unnecessary!), he has never explained the "unconventional" physics principles from which it is derived, and his only supporting argument so far is the use of irrelevant examples (such as wooden baseball bats, in a discussion of sharpened, hardened metallic impactors), laughably inaccurate scientific falsehoods (10 kg*m/s of momentum is "piddly"), and a vague appeal to the authority of firearms experts. You can't possibly figure out penetration with either momentum or KE alone. It's much more complicated than that. But given similar conditions, an increase in momentum causes an increase in reaction force, hence material failure (unless the object is so slow that it has all the time in the world to slow down, which is where the impact velocity comes into play).

But none of that matters as long as he can keep pounding on the tautology. Keep hammering it into the listening audience. Politicians love to do this, and it's a highly effective tactic upon an irrational audience (which, sadly, constitutes most of the voting public nowadays, but that's a rant for another day).


Does it not though?

You are using 2 seperate numbers to figure out penetration ability?

I don't know who Omega-13 is (although I loved Galaxy Quest, and I even bought the DVD), but he is apparently just trying to sow a bit of doubt here.


No it doesn't. Look at the numbers: 10 Newtons. It doesn't get much clearer than that. That's the force of a 5.56mm round that rips through your guts and blows a nice hole out your back.

Interesting, isn't it? He decries the importance of calculations, but he rants and raves about a number which he plucked out of thin air. What's the use of a number if he won't explain how he arrived at it?

Sigh ... I suppose I might as well explain elementary high school kinematics, since if IXJac is any indication, our education system has obviously failed us completely. The force produced by a collision is not simply its momentum with the units magically changed from kg*m/s to N. In order to calculate force, you need to divide the momentum change by the time duration. I've said before that there's more than one way to skin a cat, so I am about to show how you perform an impact analysis using momentum and velocity alone.

Let's say you're wearing rigid armour with no travel, and a projectile hits you with 10 kg*m/s of momentum. In order to determine the reaction force, you need to figure out how long it will take to stop (let's neglect your own acceleration, since it will be negligible compared to the bullet's velocity). In this idealized scenario, the armour doesn't deform at all, so the entire deceleration zone must be in the bullet itself. Suppose the tip squashes so that the bullet becomes 6 mm shorter during the impact (I just made that figure up; if you're a firearms geek, I'm sure you can get more accurate figures). This gives you 6 mm of deceleration space, and if the initial velocity was 1000 m/s, you have all the information you need. Simply remember that displacement = ½at², perform some substitutions, and you'll find that the bullet must stop in roughly 12 microseconds.

Divide the momentum by 12 microseconds, and you'll find that you need to apply more than 800 kN to stop that bullet! That's a bit higher than IXJac's 10 N figure, isn't it? Now, let's go back to that 3 mm wide impact area. The bearing stress on that area would be 800 kN divided by 7E-6 m², or more than 100 GPa! Since the strongest alloys in the world can handle less than 2 GPa, it's no wonder a rifle bullet will put a dent in just about anything, eh? But in order to punch out a hole clean through the plate, you've got to do a bit more work. You need shear out an 8 mm wide hole (wide enough for the 7.62mm bullet to pass through), and if it's a 5mm thick plate, the load-bearing area is roughly 18 times larger, so the shear stress drops to about 6 GPa. Unfortunately, this is still too large, which is why you need a bit of "give" in your body armour.

Realistically, the armour doesn't fit perfectly on your body. Moreover, your body is not rigid (even the armour isn't rigid). The combination of body armour, thickness, and deflection, in conjunction with your body's temporary deformation will all add some breathing room (let's say 1.5 inches). This would increase the deceleration zone from 6 mm to 44 mm, thus increasing the deceleration time from 12 microseconds to 88 microseconds. The reaction force would drop from 800 kN to 114 kN, the bearing stress would drop to 16 GPa, and the shear stress would drop to less than 900 MPa, which is within the limits of modern steel alloys. Mind you, this is still an idealized analysis; I am neglecting the effect of bending moment and the time of travel through the armour, both of which would further decrease the load. Moreover, I am using a fixed deformation on the part of the bullet, when realistically, you must compare the bullet's mechanical strength to the armour's mechanical strength to see which one will take the brunt of the damage. As I mentioned before, high speed photography shows rifle bullets disintegrating upon impact with very hard armour, so virtually all of their KE actually ends up going into self-destruction.

In the case of the spear-throwing incident, the tiny nick on the armour indicates that it is much stronger and tougher than the metallic spear, otherwise there should have been more damage. The human brain can withstand up to 300 G's of transient (as opposed to sustained) acceleration without injury, and the subject nearly lost consciousness from the impact against the far wall despite his padded helmet, so it seems likely that he was near the threshold. If we assume 1 inch of deflection from the helmet padding (which you can see in the SWVD), this means his head must stop in roughly 4 ms, and he was moving at speeds of up to 12 m/s, even if we disregard the braking effect of his feet sliding across the floor beneath him before impact. This gives him around 1000 kg*m/s of momentum (assuming 80 kg body weight). Even if the spear's mass was quite large (say, 10 pounds), it would still have to be moving at 220 m/s (around 500 miles per hour!) in order to send him flying backwards so violently. Small wonder they used a robot instead of a human to throw the spear, eh? Given the same 44 mm deflection, the reaction force exceeds 2.5 MN (although according to IXJac, force is completely irrelevant ... snicker). When you plug these figures into the equations used above for the bullet, keeping in mind how little damage was done to the armour and what a tiny contact area the "nick" would have been, you will see why I concluded that stormtrooper armour can deflect small-arms fire, even if it wasn't intuitively obvious to you before.

And now for the $64,000 question: how are you supposed to perform these analyses using only kinetic energy? The KE balance would indicate that either projectile carries dozens, perhaps hundreds of times as much energy as it needs to do the work, so now what? Any ideas? Would IXJac deign to explain his wondrous methods to us? Energy balances do not tell us anything about what happens during a process. They only help us determine limits, and we can use them for correlations, but they're not magic. You still need to do old fashioned mechanical analysis if you want to figure out what will happen during the process.

Almost ANYTHING has more momentum than that bullet: A push, a punch, a bird hitting your window, a baseball striking the catchers mitt. . . But none of THOSE events will deal the lethal damage the bullet will.

Yes, these examples are so very relevant to a comparison of sharpened metallic impactors ... and I would love to see a bird hit your window with 10 kg*m/s of momentum. If that bird weighs 1 pound, it would have to slam into your window at 80 kilometres per hour!

So, clearly momentum is not the key equation here, and having greater momentum does not equate to greater penetration and lethality.

And again, ending with the tautology. Every post will end with the tautology, since repetition constitutes proof. Right? It seems Gothmog has been tutoring him on methods of rhetorical (rather than logical) debate.


Oh, IXJAC, I rmeember something from the Wong is Wrong essays. I said:

"And in books the armor could too be dented by throwing a rod at it."

Now I remember, it was in those Young Jedi Order books. One of the stormtroopers with a droid arm threw a metal rod (pretty hard) at Stormtrooper armor, forcing the guy back and making a pretty nice dent.

This guy is still hanging around? He made himself look foolish as one of the first Spacebattles.com Babies, and I see he still hasn't learned to stop misrepresenting the facts. The "metal rod" was actually a spear, the guy who was "forced back" was actually thrown across the room and into a wall so hard that he almost lost consciousness from the impact despite the cushioned helmet, and the "pretty nice dent" was actually a barely perceptible "nick". But hey, why quibble over facts when you're part of spacebattles.com's "We Hate StarDestroyer.Net" clique? Watch how they back each other up; this is how they maintain their self-illusion of competence.


Quoted from IXJac: "No it doesn't. Look at the numbers: 10 Newtons ..."

well wouldn't penetration deal with the amount of energy on a certain amount of surface area? the smaller the area, the more likely the material would fail?

And if it can keep pushing, it would more likely push its way through?

The big difference between a bullet and a fist is that the surface area is a lot smaller.

Thats why the bullet penetrates, smaller surface area (these are just theories i'm trying to remember from physics class)

Finally, someone points out that IXJac's examples are completely irrelevant, by way of being mechanically dissimilar to hard metallic sharpened projectiles. Too bad IXJac will simply ignore him.


I am beginning to get mad on your behalf, IXJac. But I'm also rooting for you! Seems to me that Mike Wong is the one sniping from his fortress this time. Definitely is the case now. Mike Wong has an account here at Space Battles. If he had wanted to post a rebuttal to your arguments he could've done it here.

He actually found the time to write all that up at his site, so lack of time is no excuse.

BTW, IXJac, maybe you too should mention that you are not a Trekkie?

Well, I can see that my initial instincts were correct, and it would have been a complete waste of time to debate this "BLPhalanx" idiot. Not only does he side with IXJac's incredibly stupid misinterpretations of high school-level physics (isn't there anyone on this goddamned board who knows the proper units for momentum?), but he seems to think that I am "sniping from" my "fortress" by making these criticisms. Strange ... I was unaware that my website was a "fortress!" If it makes me immune to attack, how is it that I am attacked every day at places such as spacebattles.com?

This is the mantra of the spacebattles.com "We Hate StarDestroyer.Net" brigade: "Wong is afraid to come out and debate us!", which actually means "Wong will debate via E-mail or duelling articles, but he doesn't participate in our discussion forums, so he must be afraid!" Do they even realize that I don't participate at my own former home of ASVS either, despite the almost embarrassing praise that some of its denizens have for me? I issued my debate challenge precisely because of this stupidity, but it's clear now that it's a tautology, and they'll simply repeat it forever. Openly challenging and then defeating their champion had no effect, so in a way, it was a waste of time (although Gothmog does make a nice addition to my Hate Mail page, and I've already gotten lots of positive feedback on it).

The harsh reality is that the "We Hate StarDestroyer.Net" clique on spacebattles.com has nothing left. Gothmog was their champion, and he turned out to be, well, nothing. That's why they have nothing to fall back on but personal attacks, such as these constant accusations of cowardice. The fact that they're actually willing to support IXJac's horrendous arguments (which would get a failing grade in high school physics!) indicates their intellectual level, and quite frankly, it amazes me that they think I should take any of them seriously.


Well if a bullet, and a spear have the same surface area at the point of contact, wouldn't the sphere be able to penetrate more because of momentum?

Omega-13 makes a valid point, and I made the same point myself. But IXJac is clearly not interested in listening to points. He has his mantra, and he will simply repeat it until he bludgeons everyone else into silence over it.

Big Steve

Did his explaination on why he doesn't like debating on discussion boards pass completely over your head, Phalanx?


There's what he says, and there's the truth.

Mike Wong's word is not necessarily always going to be the same as the truth. Personally, I'm starting to think that the reason he didn't post here in *this* instance is that he felt safer in his own castle.

"Safer"? Safer from what? Does this guy seriously think I'm intimidated by IXJac's laughable arguments? It boggles the mind, to think that there are people walking around who would look at IXJac's arguments and think "Wow, that's pretty impressive. Mike must be afraid". That kind of comment tells us a lot about BLPhalanx's knowledge level, but it has little value otherwise.


Yet again, I note that all of the attacks against my site on the spacebattles.com "vs" forums invariably start with extremely poor quality technical arguments. In this case, he could have said that he thinks KE is a better figure to use than momentum, which is arguably a matter of preference and not unreasonable (although in this case, we knew the momentum so it was the obvious choice), but he had to go overboard and say that every kinematic variable but KE is irrelevant! Force, pressure, momentum, all irrelevant according to him, which only makes him look foolish. And why? Because he's so bent on attacking me that he loses sight of everything else. He would willingly take an insignificant nitpick and exaggerate it into a grievous error just in the hopes of finding a chink in my armour.

And why do they do these things? Why does every thread involving my site rapidly degenerate into personal attacks directed against me? It's because frankly, they haven't got anything else. They know I can crush them on all matters of science and technology, and that's why they are reluctant to debate anything but the most vapourous or nitpicky subjects with me, if they are willing to debate at all. Their personal animosity is not entirely surprising: they have a tribal mentality, and even many non-Trekkies have taken up the cause because they feel that by attacking some of their members, I have slighted their entire tribe. Moreover, as a group, they have suffered an unbroken string of consecutive public humiliations at my hands, culminating in Gothmog's defeat and then the follow-up of IXJac's deconstruction on this page. But with this calibre of discussion, what else can they expect? Apart from providing useful material for my Hate Mail pages, I don't see what useful function these people can possibly serve. Frankly, I would have ignored them completely if they didn't goad me constantly.

Why I don't participate in discussion boards (yet again)

I feel like I've said this too many times already, but here I go again for the umpteenth time: I will explain why I don't participate in discussion boards, not even my own former stomping grounds at ASVS (I might make an announcement, but I don't get involved in threads). Like it or not, discussion boards are a lousy debate forum. They may be good for wasting time and having fun, but they suck for quality debating. You can't go one on one with anybody because everyone wants to crowd in, and you have to participate every single day or so many messages will scroll onto the board that your reply will be hopelessly out of date, and the thread will have wandered somewhere else in the meantime. I'm always willing to debate, but someone must produce an argument that's either good or entertaining to make it worth my while, and frankly, I've never seen anything like that from the "We Hate StarDestroyer.Net" brigade on spacebattles.com.

I participate in two kinds of debate: E-mail and "duelling articles". These are the only acceptable forms of debate as far as I'm concerned, and both are derived from traditional debate methods. Traditional face to face debates have a limited number of participants, ideally just two. There is no gallery which can heckle the participants or shout their input between exchanges. Moreover, "duelling articles" is the traditional method of academic debate, and it is the primary manner in which scientists, engineers, and other academics have discussed competing ideas since before any of us were born.

As for ulterior motives, I'll freely admit that I've got one: I'm a selfish web author. If I go to a discussion board and spend my time there, am I enhancing my own website? No. Am I adding content to my own website? No. I am adding my input to somebody else's website, and as far as I'm concerned, that's a complete waste of time (no offense to Kier and other discussion board webmasters out there, but I don't see why I should contribute material to your website instead of mine). If I engage in an activity related to Star Wars and Star Trek, it will be some kind of addition or modification to my website. And if the "We Hate StarDestroyer.Net" brigade at spacebattles.com doesn't like that, too bad. They've already served their purpose: they have given me ammunition for my Hate Mail pages, and a debate in which I publicly crushed their champion. I don't know why they think I should see them as anything other than potential cannon fodder.

Some Advice

If the "We Hate StarDestroyer.Net" brigade at spacebattles.com is actually willing to rally behind people like Gothmog and IXJac, and can't come up with a better criticism of my site than "he doesn't participate in our discussion forum!", I think that says all we need to know about them. They are unified not by ideology, or technical opinions, or even sci-fi fandom, but simply by personal anger and resentment towards me. That's a pretty piss-poor basis for a group identification; do they ever realize what they've become?

They're not likely to take advice from me, but I'll give it anyway: they need to sit back, do some homework before mouthing off in future, let go of their anger over the public humiliation that resulted from their own mistakes, and raise their level of debate a notch or ten before anyone outside their little clique will take them seriously.

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