Podcast: The military's miraculous medicinal maggots (and more)

August 6, 2016 2:13 PM EDT

Two U.S. medics carry stretchers during a medical evacuation exercise, part of a joint military drill, in Yangju, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Seoul, March 5, 2008. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

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By Matthew Gault

When the United States Air Force tests a new aircraft it needs to make sure it won't crash should a stray bird slam into the plane's side. Thankfully, the military has an artillery piece with a 60-foot barrel that hurls chicken more than 400 miles an hour. The chicken gun allows the military to make sure no stray bird will foul up its expensive jets while they're mid-flight.

If you think the chicken gun is weird, it’s only the tip of a strange and fascinating iceberg.

This week on War College, we spoke with with science writer Mary Roach, author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. Instead of guns and bombs, Roach focused on the ways the American military solves some of its lesser-known but most persistent problems.

How do soldiers prevent hearing loss with heavy artillery going off? What's it take to make blastproof underwear? What can the dead teach the living? And will medics ever stop using the magnificent medicinal maggot?

(Matthew Gault co-hosts the War College podcast and is a contributing editor at War Is Boring.)

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