Useful research, if you are a gang member

by cv harquail on March 1, 2010

Oh how I love empirical research– the chance to answer burning questions, with real data, so that you can act more effectively.

Consider this new tidbit of info that I picked up over the weekend:

Full beer bottles break with less force than empty ones, so if you are going to hit someone in the head, an empty bottle is a better weapon.

201003010829.jpgFor details, check this article:

Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine
Volume 16, Issue 3, April 2009, Pages 138-142

Are full or empty beer bottles sturdier and does their fracture-threshold suffice to break the human skull?

Stephan A. Bolliger MD, Senior Forensic Pathologist, Steffen Ross MD, Radiologist, Lars Oesterhelweg MD, Forensic Pathologist, Michael J. Thali MD, Professor, Director, Forensic Pathologist and Beat P. Kneubuehl PhD, Physicist


Beer bottles are often used in physical disputes. If the bottles break, they may give rise to sharp trauma. However, if the bottles remain intact, they may cause blunt injuries. In order to investigate whether full or empty standard half-litre beer bottles are sturdier and if the necessary breaking energy surpasses the minimum fracture-threshold of the human skull, we tested the fracture properties of such beer bottles in a drop-tower.

Full bottles broke at 30 J impact energy, empty bottles at 40 J. These breaking energies surpass the minimum fracture-threshold of the human neurocranium. Beer bottles may therefore fracture the human skull and therefore serve as dangerous instruments in a physical dispute.

I guess it is useful to have this documented so that, in a court of law, a beer bottle can be acknowledged as some kind of weapon?

It could also lead to strange, data-based suggestions for beverage regulation– e.g., only cans, no bottles, in schools in dangerous neighborhoods? Assuming that an empty soda bottle is as sturdy/dangerous as an empty beer bottle?

While I jest at the obvious conclusions one could draw from this research, if you take out the part about the skull-breaking, it’s also an interesting kind of question to pose to a budding scientist — why is a full bottle weaker? (Possible answ: pressure from fluid mechanics and additional mass due to beer itself add extra reactive force when dropped?)

beer bottles from Jackal1 on Flickr


Joseph Logan March 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm

I’ve always counseled gang member clients to go with full bottles (30 J) if the target is a rival gang member or a colleague who has shown disrespect, the thought being that you want to stun the person before embarrassing the punk-ass bitch with other weapons such as a pipe, the butt of a 9, or the heel of one’s shoe.

On the other hand, if the victim is a snitch, a baller needs to apply 40 J of force (more if available) in order to convey to taxpayers what happens to snitches. A breach of the neurocranium should be enough to let mofos know what’s what.

cv harquail March 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Exactly my point(s)!
And, clearly, more research is needed.

Paul Kiser March 9, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I dare not post this on my Facebook. I live in Nevada and there are too many rednecks that would say, “Wow, this is the most interesting thing Paul has ever posted!” You can’t argue with stupid.
.-= Paul Kiser´s last blog ..Fortnight: Chapters 1 & 2 =-.

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