Back in Miami my family went through phase where we’d buy houses cheap, fix them up, and then put them back on the market for a tidy profit. The trick was to find a property that looked awful but who’s problems were mainly cosmetic; the vast majority of buyers don’t have the ability to look beyond awful shag rugs and heinous paint jobs, resulting in perfectly good houses that were fifty to sixty thousand dollars below market value for no good reason.

However, occasionally you’d come across a house that was being sold for peanuts because it was legitimately a wreck. One such house we looked at was set next to a river, and it was gorgeous. It had been featured in several interior decorating magazines, had a beautiful river side deck, jacuzzi, was surrounded by bamboo groves and for some inexplicable reason was going for almost $120,000 below market value. We liked what we saw, but being savvy investors we asked for a professional inspector to look it over. Turned out the whole building was sinking into the wet Floridian soil, and that almost every wall was cracking and being shivered apart. Within a couple of years the whole thing would most likely need to be demolished, which was why nobody would touch it.

That’s when I first heard the term ‘spalling’, which indicates that vast shear stresses under the surface of the wall are tearing it apart. When you see buildings with strange cracks in the walls for no reason, that’s what’s up. In Florida, where most things are built on marshy ground, it’s a real problem.

Then last night, researching stuff online, I discovered that one of the greatest causes of death in armored tanks was spalling. It could kill the entire crew. What? I knew spalling was bad news, but this was ridiculous.

Investigating further, I discovered that they weren’t referring to lethal cracks appearing over time due to unearthly shear stress in the sides of the tanks, but rather to what happens when a low density missile hits the side of the tank. The energy gets transferred through the armor, and causes the soft inner lining of the tank to explode inwards and kill everybody. One doesn’t need to actually penetrate the armor to kill the drivers; one could simply allow energy transfer to do it for you.

Ah… that makes much more sense. These days tanks are all geared up with ceramic composite armor, layered with steel and air and rubber and all sorts of things to prevent this. Spalling: it can cost you your home AND your entire tank crew.