Research suggests masks can slow the spread of COVID-19. In June, for example, scientists at the University of Iowa published a study in the journal Health Affairs that showed mask mandates in 15 states and in Washington, D.C. led to a 2 percent slowdown in cases after 3 weeks.
But some people still refuse to wear a mask, threatening public health. To bring swift justice to these naysayers, a hero in Huntingdon Beach, California has devised his own solution: a mask launcher that quite literally hurls masks at people’s faces.
Over the weekend, Allen Pan posted a short video on his YouTube channel, “Sufficiently Advanced,” to show off his invention. Pan isn’t just a YouTuber; he’s also appeared as a contestant on MythBusters: The Search, a 2017 spinoff of MythBusters.
“It feels like people just aren’t wearing masks. And they should be … this is a kind of a uniquely American problem,” Pan says in the footage. “There are so many good videos about how masks are safe and effective, and if that worked … it would have worked by now!”
Taking matters into his own hands, Pan got to work crafting his so-called “mask gun.” He created a four-barrel pneumatic launcher that operates sort of like a net gun. That means aiming the gun just right is a bit challenging, as the four weights at each corner of the mask’s ear loops must wrap around the person’s head.
To build it, Pan used all sorts of random objects, including the pistol grip from a spray can, pieces from a car brake line, a valve to control the carbon dioxide gas that propels the mask, and even what look like double-sided command strips (like you’d use to hang a photo on your wall) to ensure the mask sticks to the target’s face.
In the video, Pan tested the gadget at home. He set up a dummy head in front of a black backdrop, boosted on top of what looks to be a suitcase so it’s about as high up as a real person’s face would be. Equipped with a green laser, Pan designed the gun to help guide his aim.
On the first try, Pan successfully masked up the mannequin, with two of the weights wrapping around the back of the neck to hold it in place (plus, the adhesives help to stick on the surgical mask). However, subsequent tests showed it was pretty difficult to land the mask in the right place each time.
When he was ready for a human trial of sorts, Pan tested the contraption out on himself. And it worked. Then, he went to Huntington Beach, which he says is the home of anti-mask sentiment in California, where he demonstrated his new gadget for the locals.
The launcher was a success—which is great, to be sure—but better yet, Pan didn’t even need to test it out on random passersby (which would probably lead to a lawsuit), because he noticed far more people were wearing masks than he had anticipated.