Thursday, January 27, 2011

That's a Trebuchet

It's been a while since I blogged about a simple drug smuggling scheme. Generally, I am happy to report, I work with commercial importers. Only rarely have I had to call in a criminal lawyer for help. Still, this is a border issue, and it counts as amusing, at least to me.

Various news outlets are reporting that Mexican drug smugglers had been attempting to use a catapult to hurl marijuana across the border. Clearly, this is the work of a geek smuggler (and I mean that in a positive sense). But, looking at the poor video, it looks like the gizmo was actually a trebuchet, which is much more elegant than a simple catapult. A trebuchet is a "siege engine" used until the 13th Century to toss heavy, burning, or infected things at one's opposition. Apparently, a trebuchet is far more accurate than a catapult. The difference between the two being, at least as I understand it, that the trebuchet has a loose rope-link sling rather than a fixed basket for the projectile. This causes the sling to whip around, adding significant momentum, much like a snapped towel or quality golf swing. Also, most trebuchet were powered by counterweights rather than the spring of the main member (imaging a bunch of Medieval peasants pulling a tree trunk back and you get the idea). The image below shows the benefit of the trebuchet design.

Here is what the whole thing looks like:

Both images are from this Wikipedia article.

I have seen a trebuchet used to toss pumpkins. And, there is a guy at the Renaissance Faire in Bristol, Wisonsin (generally my image of Hell) named Doktor Kaboom, who uses one to toss eggs to great amusement. Clearly, with the advent of trebuchet smuggling, the device is experiencing its own renaissance of a sort.


Anonymous said...

The things I learn on this internet thing. So, hotshot lawyer guy: what is the HS classification, and is it EAR- or ITAR-controlled?

Lawrence Person said...

That's still more of a catapult than a trebuchet, because it still uses arm tension as means of launching the projectile, whereas a trebuchet uses a falling counterweight as the means of propulsion.

Leroy F. Berven said...

Anonymous -

Since this type of equipment has both civilian (punkin-chunkin', etc.) and military (medieval-era, at least) applications, it clearly fits into the range of "dual-use" technologies.