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Old 05-22-2023, 09:00 AM   #2811
Anaraxes
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Default Re: Real-Life Weirdness

30 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate has gone missing from the rail car in which is was being transported, somewhere between Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the Mojave Desert, en route to a destination in California.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to discover who took it, why, and how. Ammonium nitrate was the explosive used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, as well as the 1947 Texas City disaster, one of history's largest non-nuclear explosions. So terrorism is an obvious thought. The mundane use of the chemical as fertilizer was banned by Pakistan in an attempt to keep it out of the hands of militants there. It's also been used in rocket propellant, in case you need amateur skullduggery IN SPACE, and refrigeration and cold packs as its dissolution in water is highly endothermic, if cold is the best way to keep the Mojave Elder Thing in torpor. Possibly appealing locations along the likely route could include Colorado Springs, Los Alamos, and Las Vegas / Hoover Dam.
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Old 05-22-2023, 12:10 PM   #2812
Varyon
 
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Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
30 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate has gone missing from the rail car in which is was being transported, somewhere between Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the Mojave Desert, en route to a destination in California.
Interestingly, the article notes that the seals were intact when it arrived, indicating nobody got into it to steal the ammonium nitrate. The boring answer is probably what happened - an improperly-closed gate or leak from elsewhere resulted in the train accidentally fertilizing the soil it traveled over. But things like someone surreptitiously following alongside and gathering up all the spilled product (probably with an inside man having purposefully improperly-closed the gate to facilitate such an action), a decoy car having been installed in place of the original (possibly at the station, but for maximum Big Heist Energy, have it somehow be replaced while the train is in transit), some sort of supernatural/superscience nonsense (teleportation, insubstantiality, portals, etc), and so forth would all be options in a game. And you've given a good overview of the kinds of things it might be useful for - although it may be funny to go a bit anticlimactic, with a relatively-small-time farmer having stolen it for his crops, being unable to go through all the hoops necessary to do so after access was tightened up following McVeigh's actions. Or at least I remember talks of making it harder to get access to, I don't know if this was ever done.

I'll also note something that ammonium nitrate was involved in much more recently, for those who weren't around for the Oklahoma City Bombing (I assume nobody here remembers the Texas City disaster) - the massive port explosion in Beirut in 2020 was apparently complements of around 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate being stored alongside fireworks.
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Old 05-22-2023, 06:49 PM   #2813
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The boring answer is probably what happened
Of course. It's our job to make the actual mundane event into something more interesting :) So, thank you for your additions; good observations all around.

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it may be funny to go a bit anticlimactic, with a relatively-small-time farmer having stolen it for his crops, being unable to go through all the hoops necessary to do so after access was tightened up following McVeigh's actions. Or at least I remember talks of making it harder to get access to, I don't know if this was ever done.
That was a possibility that had occurred to me, also for the comedy value.

I do remember talk of restrictions after Oklahoma City, but I'm not sure if they actually changed anything. There are restrictions on the sale of the stuff in the US, required records of purchasers, and multiple Federal agencies to keep happy. But some of those laws and regulations came about around ten years later. I don't remember if there was any actual immediate change.
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Old 05-23-2023, 06:24 AM   #2814
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I do remember talk of restrictions after Oklahoma City, but I'm not sure if they actually changed anything. There are restrictions on the sale of the stuff in the US, required records of purchasers, and multiple Federal agencies to keep happy. But some of those laws and regulations came about around ten years later. I don't remember if there was any actual immediate change.
Even if the red tape isn't restrictively onerous (although it's not uncommon for it to be so in cases like this - the big companies with lobbyists suggesting the details of such rules can afford to have dedicated specialists for getting through the red tape, while a small mom-and-pop farm can't... and even if that's not the case in reality, it certainly can be for your campaign), you could have a "sovereign citizen" type farmer who doesn't want the government tracking their purchases and the like, and so opts to steal the needed fertilizer rather than creating a papertrail (or finding someone reliable to do a straw purchase for them). Given such are sometimes considered domestic terrorists, you get even more anticlimax when it turns out that, no, this guy is literally just using the stolen ammonium nitrate for fertilizer and maybe some homemade cold-packs, not ANFO.
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Old 05-24-2023, 10:29 PM   #2815
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Even if the red tape isn't restrictively onerous (although it's not uncommon for it to be so in cases like this - the big companies with lobbyists suggesting the details of such rules can afford to have dedicated specialists for getting through the red tape, while a small mom-and-pop farm can't...
Back in the days when the Big Three dominated the car market, it was a cliche/joke that whenever the Federal Government would announce some new set of regulations, GM (the biggest of the Big Three) would smile and announce that they were happy to comply, Ford (#2) would grind their teeth, put on a fake smile, and agree, and Chrysler would scream bloody murder, because the regs bit them harder because they were smaller. Same principle.
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Old 05-26-2023, 05:44 AM   #2816
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Default Re: Real-Life Weirdness

Mind-reading ai on the horizon

The ethical implications are interesting.
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Old 05-26-2023, 06:34 AM   #2817
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Mind-reading ai on the horizon

The ethical implications are interesting.
Fascinating. As the article indicates (and as I suspected), the models had to be generated personally for each individual, and could not make any sense of the thoughts of anyone else. Perhaps with a much larger sample size, you could have a conglomerate model that could interpret the thoughts of individuals who were not part of the sample group.


For my own contribution, apparently there's a group of orcas that has started to attack boats off the coast of Spain. Researchers aren't certain if this is a response to a negative interaction with a boat in the past or a new fad (which orcas are apparently prone to; apparently a group in 1987 was found to have opted to start wearing "hats" made of dead salmon for a few months).
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Old 05-31-2023, 07:55 AM   #2818
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Something I came across today, apparently back in the 1970's a Florida Man (of course) sold off some thin strips of metal for refacing the strike plate of frizzens (for black powder rifles). Called D-38, it produced more sparks than a typical steel strike plate, allowing one to use even fairly-blunt flint to fire such weapons.

Unfortunately, it turns out D-38 is a synonym for U-238, also known as depleted uranium. In addition to being mildly radioactive, DU is also extremely toxic if it gets into the body. Most people have the sense not to chew on chunks of uranium, of course (although ceramics coated with uranium-based paint can be problematic), but you can't really help but breathe it in if it's been aerosolized - like, say, if someone decided to use it on the frizzen of a black powder rifle.

For gaming purposes, I could see an After the End scenario where people scrounge uranium (depleted or otherwise) from ancient battlefields and similar and use it in place of steel for fire starters, particularly if it's no longer known what it is (in which case, perhaps calling it something like "sparksteel" would work?). With how harsh the wastes can be, and with how much radioactivity may still be in play from the War (particularly if the setting is strongly inspired by Fallout), it may take some time before anyone realizes the dangers of this material.

EDIT: This is probably cinematic, but in GURPS terms I could see a sparksteel strikeplate giving a +1 Malf for flintlock weapons and reducing the time needed to ignite a fire using flint and sparksteel in half; I forget if there's an FP cost for trying to start a fire with flint and steel, but if so using sparksteel should similarly cut this in half (as each attempt only takes half as long). Price would depend on the setting, but it's not going to be cheap (by weight anyway; you don't need much for a strikeplate or similar, so overall it might be relatively-cheap).
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Old 06-02-2023, 08:11 PM   #2819
L.J.Steele
 
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Default Re: Real-Life Weirdness

Amazon's _Jury Duty_ -- the whole concept behind it -- raises so many questions about what one accepts as reality.
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Old 06-07-2023, 11:32 AM   #2820
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Default Re: Real-Life Weirdness

Crocodile Messiah

A captive crocodile laid a clutch of eggs, one of which developed into a fully formed (but stillborn) baby crocodile, despite not having had contact with any other crocodiles in 16 years. This is the first known case of crocodilian parthenogenesis (they will lay eggs, but they usually do not develop at all).

Life, uh, finds a way.
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