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Oh, my friends!  I think I just had one of the coolest experiences of my life.  I just got to see grown men shooting a dead chicken at an unbelievable speed at a fighter plane canopy – just to see what happens!  Do I have the awesomest job, or what?!

Ok, I can tell this requires some explanation.  See, I work for this engineering research lab.  One of the labs is called the Impact Physics Lab (translation: place where we throw things really hard at other things to see what happens!).  In this lab, they test various airplane components to see what happens when they encounter birds.  A while ago they were testing engines, and now they’re doing stuff on canopies, the part that covers the cockpit.  My boss had heard that they were going to be running a test today, and asked me if I wanted to go down with him and watch.  Oh, I did!

This is what it was like.  We watched the actual test from the control room.  They have this huge pipe that they shoot the chicken, loaded into a styrofoam container, out of propelled by compressed air.  The canopy is positioned inside something like a big box, to try to contain the spatter.  They’re videotaping everything.  We watched the actual test (big bang, white blur, canopy has cracks & red stuff on it), and then watched it again in slow motion so we could really see it.  It’s a whole chicken (head, beak, feathers, everything) that’s been defrosted and adjusted (either by cutting a bit off or injecting water) to make it exactly 4 lbs. (so the testing is consistent).  You see it coming out, butt first, and hit the canopy.  The canopy kinda buckles, and the chicken slides up the top, getting deflected.  Cracks start coming down the side of the canopy, and the chicken slides up further and catches against the metal band with rivets where the canopy fastens onto the plane.  Then the chicken just disintigrates, for all the world like a big water balloon, and stuff goes flying everywhere.  So awesome.  I think I watched that clip a dozen times, easy.

We got to go into the testing room too and look at the canopy, and everything.  It was awesome.  With all that, still nothing got through that canopy.  I saw the pipe they shoot everything out of, and the spattered shielding (Lab Guy: Um, you might want to watch your step there.), and the chicken for the next test defrosting in the sink (Lab Guy: You’re just a little too into this, aren’t you.)  It was so much fun.  I’m such a geek.  But a happy geek! 

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