How Military Snipers Work


Full Transcript

Announcer: Welcome to Stuff From The Science Lab from howstuffworks.com.

Allison Loudermilk: Hey, guys, and welcome to the podcast. This is Allison Loudermilk, the science editor at howstuffworks.com.

Robert Lamb: And this is Robert Lamb, science writer at howstuffworks.com.

Allison Loudermilk: Today, we're straying a little bit outside our normal purview. We're going to delve into the world of military snipers.

Robert Lamb: Well, it's kind of a military science, and we have a lot of military stuff under the science banner at How Stuff Works, so fair game.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah. So there's a pretty good article on our site that I want to refer you guys to, just upfront in case I forget. It's written by Robert Valdes, and we're doing to be talking about a lot of points he covered in military snipers.

Robert Lamb: And it's worth pointing out that this is one of the few articles that has a video game component to it.

Allison Loudermilk: It does, which I played this afternoon.

Robert Lamb: For hours.

Allison Loudermilk: Did you try it out?

Robert Lamb: No, I haven't tried it out yet.

Allison Loudermilk: Well, it's buried. It's on one of the latter pages, and you have to hit ten hidden targets. And you're supposed to do it within 30 seconds. So you line it up in the scope and hit the hidden target. I got 100 points.

Robert Lamb: Wow, so you're quite the sniper. I'm interested to try it out. I always got a kick out of video games that had some sort of sniper component. Like the Metal Gear Solid games, specifically the one that came out for PS2 back in the day. There was one awesome level in particular, where you were out there among these snow banks and you have a sniper rifle. And there was another sniper, and you have to try and figure out where the other sniper is. And you end up having to identify where they are based on - you can see their breath rising on the other side of this little hill.

Allison Loudermilk: So sniper trying to pick off sniper.

Robert Lamb: Yeah.

Allison Loudermilk: Battle of the snipers.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, it shows up in a lot of video games. It's like the sniper rifle is pretty common these days in your action oriented products.

Allison Loudermilk: So in these video games, is there a spotter as well? Or is it just the lone sniper.

Robert Lamb: I can't speak for the - I know there are video games that have titles like Sniper. But most of your games are going to be solo types deals where you just have one dude with a sniper rifle - the one's I've seen, anyway.

Allison Loudermilk: Okay. Well, here we are. We're going to educate you because it's not a lone gunman typically - at least those snipers who are working for law enforcement or the military.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, think of it like chess in a way. You have all these special pieces, but they have to work as a team. One piece has to support the other. You don't just send a tank out into the field, you send a tank out with infantry support to cover its weaknesses and allow its strength to shine through.

Allison Loudermilk: Right. So snipers work in pairs. So even the Beltway Snipers - I don't know if you remember that, but back in 2002 in t

he U.S. there was this infamous pair of snipers. It was an older guy, John Allen Muhammad - and he was actually executed in 2009. And he had a 17-year-old accomplice, Lee Malvo.

Robert Lamb: Oh, yeah.

Allison Loudermilk: And they were in the Washington DC area. And I think they were accused of killing ten people.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, it was quite the stir.

Allison Loudermilk: Right. So they were operating in a pair, too. So you have the sniper, who gets a lot of the glory. But really, you have the other half - the spotter - who's tracking the target while the person pulling the trigger has to recover from gun recoil and stuff like that. And you also have the spotter, who's giving feedback on the wind conditions and any other condition that's going to affect the shot.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, if I remember correctly, the Hurt Locker features a great scene where you see a spotter helping a sniper.

Allison Loudermilk: I haven't seen that. I really do want to see it.

Robert Lamb: It's really good.

Allison Loudermilk: It's supposed to be excellent. So it's a pair. They're elite long-range marksmen, and they're generally part of a special ops team. And they obviously can shoot with ridiculous precision. But they tend to be more than that. They're not just pulling the trigger. They do more than just rack up confirmed kills. Arguably, their main role is reconnaissance. So they're very skilled at this thing they call the stalk. So there's even a game you play in military sniper school. I assume they have the equivalent for law enforcement - some sort of training program.

Robert Lamb: Like police academy? No. Like police snipers, yeah.

Allison Loudermilk: They people who would be a part of the SWAT team. So in military training, the snipers learn how to stalk. And it's really interesting. There's this stalk training that takes place in a big open grassy ranch. And your sniper students are going to start at one end of the ranch, and about 1,000 meters down you have your instructors checking out what you're doing and how well you're faring. And they're sitting on top of a truck or tower with spotter scopes so they can see what's going on. They have specialized telescopes to see what's happening.

Robert Lamb: So they're judging them on how stealthily they move or -

Allison Loudermilk: Wait, wait, wait. I'm coming. So the sniper students have to stalk toward the instructors without being seen. So they're in this grassy field and the instructors are actively looking for them, and the snipers are trying to move toward them on the DL, stealthily. It's pretty interesting. Do you think you'd be able to do that?

Robert Lamb: Well, no.

Allison Loudermilk: But they also have some help. They have camouflage. They have their Ghillie suit, which we'll get into a little bit later, which is a key part of a sniper's gear.

Robert Lamb: It sounds pretty cool. When I was in Boy Scouts, we had all of the official Boy Scout things we had to do like tie knots, start fires, and identify trees. But we would often playing these games out in these fields, where you're playing elaborate hide and go seek out in a cornfield in the middle of the night. So I can see where.

Allison Loudermilk: Did you really play hide and seek in a cornfield in the middle of the night? Because that sounds pretty fun.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, well one group would hide in the field and then the other group would have flashlights. And they would come in looking for you. And it was frightening at times, because on the one hand you're like, "Oh, my goodness. I'm afraid I'm going to get caught by the dudes with the flashlights." And then you find a really dark corner of the field and you hunker down and there's nobody around you and it's quiet. Then you realize, "Oh, my goodness. I'm out in the middle of the woods and it's dark." And you start getting freaked out about that. So it was quite the adrenaline rush. So I could see where one of these stalking events in sniper academy could be pretty exhilarating.

Allison Loudermilk: So while they're stalking, they're trying to be these masters of stealth. And they're doing stuff like reporting on the enemy's size, strength, and location. And this is all pretty helpful when they radio that back to the commanding officers.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. You've got a guy who can get in there close without being seen, so the reconnaissance value there is immense - perhaps more so than his ability to take out a key component of that enemy.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah. So let's talk about that. Who are they trying to take out?

Robert Lamb: Not the average soldier, that's the thing. That's another thing about video games. There's some games where you have a sniper rifle, but you're basically just killing everything in sight. And that's not what this is about. This is about a precision strike. This is about identifying an important -

Allison Loudermilk: A key person.

Robert Lamb: - aspect of the enemy's forces and removing it from play - and maybe striking a little terror in the process.

Allison Loudermilk: So who would you think might be one of those key people that you'd want to -

Robert Lamb: The cook, because if they cook's gone - no. Well, obviously any kind of individual in command would be a key target - like a communications officer, that kind of thing.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah. Pilots. Valdes also talked about armor drivers and your communications operators - stuff like that. So here's something that I hadn't really thought about. There's a famous movie scene, maybe many famous movie scenes in which the enemy's location is disclosed by the flare of a cigarette or the match. They light up and it's say good-bye. So snipers are ultra observant. That's something they're superbly taught in sniper training school. So a sniper's going to be able to discern who's who in the battlefield. They're going to pick up on all sorts of subtle cues. They're look at body language.

Say you make the mistake of saluting your commanding officer in the field, well then what's going to happen?

Robert Lamb: Right. And this becomes more and more important as we move further away from the outdated vision of the military where the guy in charge has a fancy hat. You have combatants who do not have uniforms, especially in the field. And they probably don't have uniforms at all. If you're in a situation like in Afghanistan or something, to figure out who's in charge you're going to have to observe and see, based on their social interactions and the way they carry themselves, which guy is the command unit.

Allison Loudermilk: Right. And so you don't have these key people. So the sniper's going to look for something called a target of opportunity. So this could be an officer taking a break to smoke a cigarette or a pilot who's flight checking his helicopter or a guard who's patrolling the camp or base.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, someone who is suddenly an easy target to pick off. And in taking that guy out might not actually - it's not like, "Oh, my goodness. Doug's gone, so we're just going to give up the war now. We're just going to completely surrender." But everyone else in Doug's unit is going to be like, "Oh, my goodness, Doug just bought it going out to smoke a cigarette." It breaks down morale.

Allison Loudermilk: Absolutely. And then it's not just people they're after, it's also material things, too - stuff like a generator or radio transmitter or a fuel tank.

Robert Lamb: Exactly - something of great importance to the force.

Allison Loudermilk: And you were just talking about how a single hit can really demoralize the enemy. So snipers are called force multipliers by army strategists. And so all that means, as you guys can probably guess, is that sniper teams can do much more damage than you'd think an individual could be capable of causing.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, they can spread chaos.

Allison Loudermilk: So let's get to the other half of the team, the spotter.

Robert Lamb: The spotter tracks the shots fired.

Allison Loudermilk: And you can tell this by - we were talking about these high velocity long-range rounds. And a lot of times they're going to leave a vapor trail.

Robert Lamb: The main way that I could relate to this, because I don't know that I've played a video game that had a vapor trail after you fired a sniper rifle - and maybe I'm just playing the wrong games. But one game does come to mind. A little iPhone app that everybody plays these days, called Angry Birds. My wife's addicted to it and I've played it some. It's pretty fun.

Allison Loudermilk: She's addicted to Angry Birds. That's a funny thing to say.

Robert Lamb: Bring up Angry Birds among iPhone owners and it's like people go crazy for it.

Allison Loudermilk: I will.

Robert Lamb: It's a game where you slingshot little birds at little pigs that are in fortresses. It's silly, it's cute, but -

Allison Loudermilk: Slingshotting birds is cute?

Robert Lamb: Well, they're cute birds. So you slingshot the bird and you miss, but after you fire you can see the trajectory of the shot tracked in little dots. Then you can correct your shot based on that trail. So it's not as simple as that with sniper rifles, obviously, but it reminds me of that. It's like, "Oh, we can see based on the vapor trail how the last shot went and we can correct based on that."

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, so Valdes interviewed an army ranger sniper, which is pretty cool.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, he went the extra mile.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, he did. And this sniper that Valdes quoted says it looks like mixed up air. You can see through it, but you can see the distortion. I think of it as, if you're ever looking at a grill - you're grilling something outside and you can see the distorted air rising off the grill, like waves.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, or if you look across asphalt on a really hot day.

Allison Loudermilk: Right. Same sort of thing. Or at least I think it would be same sort of thing.

Robert Lamb: That's my interpretation, too.

Allison Loudermilk: And the spotter is also going to help your sniper factor in the conditions. So your wind, weather, visibility, pressure, humidity - because we're talking about pretty long ranges. And the farther you get away, the more precise you have to be when you're aiming your weapon.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. And you have to account for the changes that are going to take place over a long distance - be it wind or just gravity.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah. Plain old gravity can affect your shot. So perfect conditions according to sniper - no wind, mild weather, clear visibility. But that's not going to happen. So given that those are rare days, a sniper team has to correct for things like that. So they have to correct for the way the bullets are going to spin and drift. And they do that with this thing called MOA, or minute of angle.

Robert Lamb: MOA makes me think of a giant flightless bird. MOA sounds a little more like military.

Allison Loudermilk: So this is the unit of measurement that snipers rely on to measure accuracy. And their spotters are going to help them with figuring out how to get the best shot in and factor in MOA there.

Robert Lamb: An

d the spotter's not just along for the ride. He's armed as well.

Allison Loudermilk: That's true.

Robert Lamb: So he's there to provide supporting fire if suddenly the sniper becomes the target or they have to beat a hasty retreat and fire some shots along the way.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, he's going to have typically an automatic assault rifle. Because his main duty is to protect the sniper, and thus the unit essentially. Here's another thing I'm not sure spotters like too much. I was reading that being a spotter is like being a sniper apprentice, albeit an extremely valuable one, though.

Robert Lamb: Or like a golf caddy, right?

Allison Loudermilk: I would take extreme offense to that if I were a spotter.

Robert Lamb: Well, obviously it's not the same thing. But calling them apprentice - it's what it's -

Allison Loudermilk: He's learning in the field. And how better are you going to learn if you're not out in the field practicing these skills. Eventually, a lot of spotters will wind up picking up all the knowledge and maybe leading their own team.

Robert Lamb: In Caddyshack, the caddies all played golf.

Allison Loudermilk: That's true.

Robert Lamb: I will not make any more points based on Caddyshack in this podcast.

Allison Loudermilk: But ultimately it is the sniper who's going to make all the calls, who's going to have the final say. He's the one who's going to be coordinating with command to put together the mission. And when they're out in the field, he's going to have the final word in determining stuff like route, position, rendezvous points, and even escape route.

Robert Lamb: So he's calling the shots and making the shots, and the spotter's the guy helping him make those shots. So what kind of gear are these guys carrying? Some pretty high tech stuff at times, right?

Allison Loudermilk: Well, if you're going for one shot, one kill, your equipment really matters. So a sniper rifle - but that's an ambiguous term because there's no set model of sniper rifle. They can be a bolt action. So that just means for non-gun knowledgeable people, like myself, a bolt action just means you have to reload after every round fired. So what's the disadvantage of that?

Robert Lamb: Well, that you have to reload after every shot fired.

Allison Loudermilk: Right. And then that reloading movement could give away your position. Pretty much anything can give away your position. If you have a semiautomatic, which is another option for a sniper rifle, that also comes with its own special ways of being detected by the enemy.

Robert Lamb: Yeah. Most of these weapons are going to make a lot of sound. I found it interesting that these sniper rifles were often referred to as crew served weapons - the idea that it's a big gun, but unlike most of your video games you need two people to operate it correctly.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, like we were talking about before, if you come under fire and you've got to get out of there fast, you're not going to want a sniper rifle.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, the sniper rifle just becomes luggage at that point.

Allison Loudermilk: Totally. I imagine you'd ditch it, although I don't know that for sure. If you're beating a hasty retreat, are you really taking your gear with you? Do soldiers abandon their gear in the field if they need to?

Robert Lamb: I think the general idea is that as

pricey as gear is, it's generally pricier to train the individual to use that equipment.

Allison Loudermilk: Life is pricier.

Robert Lamb: So it's like the whole ejection seat in an airplane thing, like a fighter jet.

Allison Loudermilk: No, no. Keep going with this.

Robert Lamb: Well, it's not a perfect analogy. But with the fighter jet, you have the ejection seat because if something's going wrong with the plane you'll reach a point where it's better to save the pilot than to further endanger the pilot to save the plane.

Allison Loudermilk: Okay, I gotcha.

Robert Lamb: There comes a line that you -

Allison Loudermilk: Right. So maybe they're ditching the sniper rifle.

Robert Lamb: I imagine they're encouraged to bring it back if they can.

Allison Loudermilk: Well, the sniper rifle is going to be more than your average gun, obviously. It's match grade. So it's going to be fine-tuned, probably by a professional gunsmith, to ensure accuracy and reliability. These are the kind of things that somebody who would be participating in a professional gun shooting competition would do.

Robert Lamb: These are high-grade weapons.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah. And they were also talking about sniper rifles having this free-floating barrel, and that's going to make sure the barrel touches the least amount of the weapon possible. And the idea here is that it's going to help with cutting down on vibration from the recoil. They're expensive - you'd guess that. They may cost as much as $15,000 and up.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, or more.

Allison Loudermilk: And on the lower end, maybe you're looking at $8,000.

Robert Lamb: And of course you're going to need a sniper scope. And that's what the spotter mans. This is the scope that you look through to see what you're targeting.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, it's a specialized telescope. And we do have an illustration on the site in case you guys are curious. It's pretty cool. We did it a while ago. Here's my favorite part of sniper equipment.

Robert Lamb: What's that?

Allison Loudermilk: The Ghillie suit.

Robert Lamb: Oh, yeah. The Ghillie suit.

Allison Loudermilk: They're kind of hilarious looking.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, if you've ever seen it, it's like when you see a soldier that looks like he just spent a night in the swamp. He looks like Swamp Thing. He has all this foliage hanging off of him and sticks, branches, and bramble. It can look a little comical.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, I think of like Chubaka. But I think of Chubaka a lot these days apparently. Chubaka with leaves caught in his fur.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, that's the exact kind of thing it looks like.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, so it's just camouflage. The overriding point here is that clearly you don't want to be spotted by your enemy, but you're also going to want to blend in with nature. And the important thing here is the angle of your gun, the straight line of whatever equipment you're carrying - anything out of place is going to be spotted by the enemy. They make little Ghillie suits for their rifles, even.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, I think I've seen those. It's like a big camouflage sock that get's pulled over the barrel. Now, are you going to tell the history of Ghillie suit?

Allison Loudermilk: It seems more up your alley. Do you remember the history of the Ghillie suit?

Robert Lamb: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you said it was of Scottish origin.

Allison Loudermilk: It is.

Robert Lamb: And the idea being back in ye olden times -

Allison Loudermilk: Haggis.

Robert Lamb: I'm sure we have Scottish listeners who can correct us on these things. But basically you'd have your big game preserve that belonged to a lord. And the lord would decide that he want to shoot a deer - and arrow at a deer - but the lord doesn't want to actually go out into the wilderness and put in all the time. And maybe he's not that good and it's the job of his underlings to let him think that he's good.

Allison Loudermilk: Right. The gamekeeper, specifically.

Robert Lamb: Even though it's Irish, I picture Darby O'Gill from Darby O'Gill and the Little People.

Allison Loudermilk: All right. As long as we're going to keep on with Caddyshack, it's definitely -

Robert Lamb: Oh, Bill Murray. Yeah, let's change it. Let's picture Bill Murray in this Ghillie suit.

Allison Loudermilk: Okay, so got that image. In fact, I think he does have a Ghillie suit in Caddyshack, doesn't he?

Robert Lamb: Oh, he does. Yeah, when he's hunting the gopher. I'm pretty sure he does. Wow. Who knew?

Allison Loudermilk: It all comes back to Caddyshack.

Robert Lamb: So, yeah, Bill Murray's character is in this Ghillie suit and he goes out in the wilderness and begins to stalk this deer. And he doesn't really have a weapon or anything, he just creeps up as close as possible to the deer.

Allison Loudermilk: The ultimate stalker.

Robert Lamb: And then just nabs it.

Allison Loudermilk: With his bare hands.

Robert Lamb: Just grabs it with his bare hands. And I don't know, maybe he puts it in sack. How do you get a deer back to the lord's castle?

Allison Loudermilk: I think you could just hoist it over your shoulder.

Robert Lamb: Yeah? Probably doesn't ride it. But he gets it back somehow and then takes into an enclosed wooded area or ties it to a tree. It depends on how proficient the lord is at shooting things. So once the game's delivered, then the lord can come out with his fancy crossbow or musket, fire his shot, and then yay - he just killed a deer that the gameskeeper actually went and apprehended with his own hands.

Allison Loudermilk: And Ghillie suit.

Robert Lamb: So that's pretty awesome. I did not know that before today.

Allison Loudermilk: It's pretty interesting stuff. So here's something I was wondering. We're talking long-range distances for snipers. We're talking how far exactly? What's the record set here?

Robert Lamb: Well, first I think when people think snipers and shots fired off at a distance, a lot of people think of JFK. But the distance that Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired to hit -

Allison Loudermilk: The farthest distance.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, the farthest distance that was fired was -

Allison Loudermilk: 296 feet, I think.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, so 296 -

Allison Loudermilk: That's peanuts.

Robert Lamb: - is peanuts compared to the record. What is the record right now?

Allison Loudermilk: As of this recording, it was held by a British soldier, a Corporal of Horse - I guess that's a British title? I was uncertain about this, how horse fit into this title. But I guess it does, and Corporal of Horse Harrison from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. And he holds a record of about 1.5 miles.

Robert Lamb: Wow. 1.5 miles.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, so the distance to his two human targets was 8,120 feet - or 1.54 miles. And they measured that with a GPS system. And notably, it was about 3,000 feet beyond the weapon's effective range.

Robert Lamb: So that just completely puts any talk of Lee Harvey Oswald being a sniper to rest. That dude was nothing. Horse Harrison -

Allison Loudermilk: No, that's not his first name. It's part of a title. We should've looked up more about British soldier titles, but we didn't - because we're focusing on snipers today, people.

Robert Lamb: But one 1.5 miles, that's amazing. I was impressed. And to imagine that you could be out - this was actually in Afghanistan. You could be in the wilds of Afghanistan and your enemy is a mile and a half away and able to pick you off.

Allison Loudermilk: That's pretty crazy. So you mentioned Lee Harvey Oswald. Let's go back to him for a second. Let's do a little sniper history as long as we're wrapping things up. So according to the Army Sniper Association, the same folks who sponsor the annual sniper competition - which I guess you'd go if you were a super sniper. The U.S. Army International Sniper Competition is in fact held annually. But the Army Sniper Association says that the term sniper originated from the British occupation of India in the 1800s. But when you think about it, we had to have had snipers for as long as we've had long-range weapons.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, I think as long as we've had long-range weapons, we've had guys -

Allison Loudermilk: Who were stealthy.

Robert Lamb: - who were stealthy and better at it than the other guys in their unit. So we always had guys who excelled at it, and by excelling at it, would be put in a situation to capitalize on that skill.

Allison Loudermilk: Right. So Lee Harvey obvious goes down as one of the most infamous snipers in history. But we're not so sure that he was a good one, per se. Oswald was actually using a rifle he ordered from the mail. And I want to go back for a sec - I said 296 feet, and what I meant was actually 265 feet. So I was giving him too much credit.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, even worse for that guy.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, and he may not have been acting alone, but we don't even have to get into that. That's Josh and Chuck territory.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, that's Josh and Chuck or Stuff They Don't Want You to Know. We'll let them cover all the JFK conspiracy angles.

Allison Loudermilk: There was something interesting that I had not heard about that you had. There was a video game released, JFK Reloaded. And it was released on the 41st anniversary of JFK's assassination in Dallas. So this game essentially allowed gamers to get behind Lee Harvey Oswald's sniper rifle and recreate the assassination event.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, I remember there being a stink about that.

Allison Loudermilk: In all of its 3D glory. You could take both sides of it, I suppose. But first hearing about it and reading about it, I came stomping over to your desk. "Hey, have you heard of this game?" And you're like, "Well, maybe they're trying to teach a point about history." Which it essentially was what the game creators said.

Robert Lamb: I don't know. I guess if you're around a lot of video game violence you become numb to it eventually. And there's so many stupid and possibly offensive video games out there that this comes along and you're like, "Oh, well. It's not surprising."

Allison Loudermilk: So I guess if you came closest to recreating the actual shot, you were supposed to win $100,000. But I don't know if anybody ever did and who that individual was.

Robert Lamb: So yeah. That's snipers for you. We kept talking about video games, so by all means - you gamers out there, if there's an authentic sniper video game on the market let us know. We'll mention it. Specifically, if there's anything involving - I know there are a lot of coop games now, and I don't do a lot of that. But it would stand to reason where you could have a game where one dude is the sniper and one dude is holding the scope.

Allison Loudermilk: Yeah, and you could always play the game on our article, How Military Snipers Work. I think it's on page nine or something. But you'll have to click through the entire article and read it in all its fun Robert Valdes glory.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, and we actually have a lot of cool military technology and military science articles on the site.

Allison Loudermilk: We don't touch on it very often, but maybe we'll do that a little bit more.

Robert Lamb: We really should. We have a lot of cool content to discuss.

Allison Loudermilk: So I wanted to share a little listener mail if I could.

Robert Lamb: Yeah, do it. What do we have?

Allison Loudermilk: Awhile back on one of our episodes, we requested some of your favorite science quotes. And we got some from you guys. And here's some favorites. So for example, one of our literary named fans, a gentleman by the name of James, sent a couple of his. So there are some funny ones and this was my favorite. He said, "With the bomb squad, you can usually stop running after the first couple of blocks. If it involves the physics department, keep going." That was good. Do you have a funny one that you wanted to share?

Robert Lamb: Yeah, I did. I love this one. This one comes from a listener by the name of Andrew. And it is a quote from a character of Futurama, which is a show I love. This is from Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth of Mars University. He's one of the main characters, the old decrepit mad scientist. And he said, "Technology isn't intrinsically good or evil. It's how it's used - like the death ray." Because the death ray is not intrinsically evil. It's just if you use it for evil purposes -

Allison Loudermilk: And lastly, maybe we'll end with a serious one on gravity, seriousness, and awesomeness of science. And this one was sent by Brian who says, "Go science! Equipped with

his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure science." And that was Edwin Hubble.

Robert Lamb: Oh, very nice.

Allison Loudermilk: So as always, we love to hear from you guys. If you have anything you want to share about snipers, science, or anything else send us an email at sciencestuff@howstuffworks.com.

Robert Lamb: And check us out social networking. You'll find us on Twitter as @LabStuff. And you'll also find us on Facebook as Stuff From the Science Lab. We'll keep you updated on what we're writing about, podcasting about, and thinking about in the field of science.

Allison Loudermilk: That's a lot of science stuff. So thanks for listening guys.

Announcer: For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit howstuffworks.com. Want more How Stuff Works? Check out our blogs on the howstuffworks.com homepage.