Investigating Bombs with Robots and Shrapnel

BY Jenny Marder and Ellen Rolfes  May 31, 2013 at 3:29 PM EST


For Tuesday’s NewsHour, Science correspondent Miles O’Brien visited the barren desert canyons of New Mexico, where investigators study explosives… by building and exploding bombs. While there, they assembled a pressure-cooker bomb — the kind used in the Boston Marathon bombing. Shrapnel, like the nails built into that bomb, O’Brien explained, travel at 1,000 to 2,000 feet per second.

But shrapnel shot out from high-pressure pipe bombs, he reports, travels even faster, adding a frightening new dimension to the threat.

While reporting for the NewsHour and the related NOVA documentary, “Manhunt-Boston Bombers,” O’Brien produced the short video above, along with the video below on another piece of the investigation puzzle that didn’t make it into the NewsHour segment: bomb robots. Manipulated remotely, they serve as eyes and tools for investigators trying to keep their distance from a possible bomb site.

Also, don’t miss O’Brien’s related piece that aired on Wednesday’s NewsHour broadcast: “Are Faces the New Fingerprints?”