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Mythbusters

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D'kian
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For those unfamiliar with the show, two special effects experts, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, test various myths and urban legends. Despite the show's title, the goal is not to prove a myth false, but simply to test whether it's true or not. Usually, though, the myths turn out to be false.

Part of the allure of the show is the testing itself. Another part are the spectacular explosions they often acomplish, or the equally spectacular wrecks they leave behind (once they smashed two tractor trailers head on with a subcompact car in between). But I think a large part, too, is the casual competence displayed by the Mythbusters and their team.

For example, for the penny-drop myth (will a penny dropped from the top fo the Empire State Building kill a pedestrian down below?) they built a wind tunnel to determine a penny's terminal speed, then they adapted a nail gun to shoot pennys at such speeds. They also built a target using a human skull and ballistics gel. For various car-related myths they jury-rig remote controls for full size cars (limited, but they work). Once they built a brick wall with barred windows to test various forms of escaping from jail.

Sometimes they argue about the easiest way, or the cheapest one, or the fastest one, or the one more likely to get clear results. Sometimes they over-reach and fail and try something else. but never once do they say "This is too hard. Forget it." More often they'll just say "Oh, that's easy to test." And proceed to build a bunch of stuff to perform experiments on. Of course each episode shot probably takes a week or so of shooting (some experiments go on for weeks, like one to determine whether talking to plants amde any difference), but what they get done is impressive. Often, too, they encounter problems during building and testing, so they've become quite adept at improvising fixes and solutions.

Now, some of the myths tested include claims so preposterous you wonder why they even bother to test them. but sometimes the preposterous claims work. For example, pouring an egg into a leaking radiator will plug the leak. Ridiculous, right? they tried it and it worked. Or Coke can serve as a chrome polisher. It didn't work as well as a dedicated polisher, but it worked well enough.

But more important, when testing they show why a myth is false, and how far the claims are from actual results.

Take the Confederate rocket myh. The claim is the confederacy built a rocket that could reach over a hundred miles. Using materials and fuels available at the time, the team built a hybrid rocket. It launched and it flew, but only hundreds of feet, not miles. The testing demonstrated there weren't materials light enough, nor fuels powerful enough in the 1860s for such a rocket to exist.

Then there's the bullet-proof water myth. The claim is that if you dive deep enough under a lake or ocean, bullets can't reach you, in effect the water acts as bullet-proof shield. They tested by firing rounds of various calibers into a pool at a ballistics gel target. The results were not exactly as expected. Smaller calibers could reach the target and penetrate it. Larger caliber rounds, however, broke up on impact with the water and caused no damage to the target.

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I love this show! The side kicks are funny too. There was one where they tested the rumor of a broken drive shaft being able to catapult a moving vehicle. It worked a little, but not quite to the full extent of the rumor. Anyway, at one point the remote control car went out of control and nearly went into the bay. :lol: Another funny one that comes to mind was when they were experimenting with all sorts of vodka myths...washing their feet with it, using it as mouthwash, etc. Another favorite of mine was when they tested whether or not plants react to sounds, people talking to them, different types of music, no sound, etc. The plants that heard metal music all day actually were the healthiest! They theorized that the sound vibrations stimulated growth. Good stuff.

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Anyway, at one point the remote control car went out of control and nearly went into the bay. :lol:

Well, every time they destroy Buster it's funny. I remember when they tried the myth about using a hammer to "break the surface tension of the water," I couldn't stop laughing when Buster lost a leg and overall looked deader than usual. The boom-lift catapult was also hilarious. Anyone who has tried to improvise a catapult with a ball cap and a tennis ball knew that couldn't possibly work.

I forgot to mention that almost always when a myth gets busted, the team tries to reproduce the expected result. Not always, of course, because sometimes it's just not possible. But when they do it shows exactly how far off the mark a myth is. Sometimes even their best effort to reproduce the result fails misserably.

I also like that they try to explain the mechanics of why something fails or cannot possibly work. They did a bang-up job determining air resistance in a pickup with the gate up and down (less with the gate up).

Which brings me to one gripe. Once they tested whether you got better milleage with the windows down or the air conditioner on. The result was in favor of the windows down. Fine. But before the definitive test, they used a fuel milleage measuring device that gave the exact opposite results. They never really explained the discrepancy.

Anyway, I also appreciate their willingness to revist myths if they receive a good enough suggestion or they realize they made an error. When they did explosive decompression, I instantly thought the slipstream of air on a flying plane might have something to do with the end result. So they tried that and the myth remained busted (short version, a small hole on a plane won't cause loose packing peanuts to rise off the floor, much less suck a person through a small opening).

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No kidding. I love how Grant's answer to everything is "Let's just build a robot."

One ep that was really good on that vein was when they rebuilt Buster. I did wonder how useful Buster 2.0 as a crash test dummy with the home-made body. But the use of wooden "bones" to test for fractures is a good idea. Mostly, though, it was the sheer willingness to make their own dummy rahter than simply getting a new one.

BTW antoher thing about the show is that all projects are approached cheerfully, and everything is seen as being a blast. The team members are all interested in the outcome, the process, the testing, and enjoy it all tremendously. I think what they say most often is a variant of "Wow! Did you see that?"

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