Ball Security Fallacy Uncovered!

There's something that announcers have been saying for a while that I just heard again watching "Big Ten Basketball Wrap-Up," helping me realize just how stupid it is. Have you ever heard a BTN commentator or anyone else criticize a team's turnover tendencies by saying "they're treating the ball like nuclear waste" or "they can't win if they're gonna treat the ball like nuclear waste" ?

Let's think about that for a second, folks.. Nuclear waste. Does that sound like something that gets lost into the hands of the enemy a lot? Is this really something we want to use as an analogy for someone habitually losing possession of the most important tool in the game? I understand the innocent thought (if you can even call it thought) behind the statement, but when you really think about it, even for a second, it's absolutely ridiculous and asinine. More after the jump. Plus videos!

As a nuclear engineering student at Purdue, I guess this is something that hit a little close to home for me. You don't have to be a nuclear engineer to understand that nuclear waste is one of the best-protected substances in the world, though. Standards vary between countries, but not by much. In the United States, the spent radioactive material is put into airtight transport casks that are built to withstand some ridiculous scenarios, preventing release of radioactivity to the environment. Here's a few of those scenarios, coming from Wikipedia because I'm too lazy to open my file cabinet to get out my NUCL 200 notes, but it's still accurate information from what I remember:

  • 30-foot free fall onto an "unyielding surface"
  • 3-foot free fall onto a 6-inch diameter steel rod (puncture test)
  • 30 minutes of furious fire at approximately 1500 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 8 hours under 3 feet of water
  • One hour under 655 feet of water

So those are the "standards" but the reality is that these casks are much more resilient than that, based on the crash tests that they've done. They get put on trucks and crashed into all sorts of stuff, get dropped from helicopters, get burned up in jet fuel for extended periods of time, etc. The casks get pretty beat up on the outside, but the integrity of the container is never compromised despite the whole mess of nastiness they throw at them.

My personal favorite test is that they have fired high-velocity armor-piercing rounds at them, which were the only things successful at penetrating the cask. However, the round introduced such a high temperature gradient that the hole it made was sealed behind it immediately, resulting in no pressure loss and essentially no failure. These test videos were made long before MythBusters was around, so the theatrics are pretty lousy, but the impacts are just as cool.

Yeah, that's right... You just saw a train engine with rockets attached to it crash into a stationary nuclear fuel cask. Want another view?

I wanted to embed another one, but the preview indicates that it won't show up for some reason, so here's the link.

If you understand any Spanish, here's a good one. If you don't, it's still entertaining, although you probably won't understand the heights and speeds they mention. I'll give you a hint: the big drop from the crane is from 40 meters.

For anyone who wants to listen to some British guy beat around the bush talking about the process before watching a locomotive hitting a cask at 100 mph, check this one out.

Now these crash tests don't really have a whole lot to do with ball security or any poorly-chosen basketball analogies, but they are really fun to watch. All it really proves is that if a basketball is nuclear waste, it can really take a beating. Which is why it's worth pointing out that these are the transportation rules for moving spent nuclear fuel, which really make the case for this basketball analogy carrying absolutely no weight:

  • Follow only approved routes;
  • Provide armed escorts for heavily populated areas;
  • Use immobilization devices.
  • Provide monitoring and redundant communications;
  • Coordinate with law enforcement agencies before shipments
  • Notify in advance the NRC and States through which the shipments will pass.

So, you tell me. Would you like your basketball team to treat the ball like nuclear waste?

I would.

Stuff in the FanPosts is entirely at the discretion of those that post them. They do not represent the views of Hammer & Rails, SBNation, or Purdue University in any way.

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