MYTHBUSTERS THE SEARCH: Looking Back Before the Finale

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“Do you miss me yet?” MYTHBUSTERS fans said goodbye to their favorite science reality TV show back in March 2016, and as the Science Channel on cable TV and satellite picked up the franchise from the Discovery Channel, they could sense the demand to keep the fun going. So they came up with a way to do that.

The show’s demise wasn’t that there weren’t plenty of myths to bust and science to test. Fans loved the basis behind the series. But when the show’s producers eliminated three of its most likable presenters (Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara), they lost a big chunk of their fan base. Although fans still loved main hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, the show just wasn’t the same without the Kari, Tory, and Grant. And when the series did a revamp with just Adam and Jamie, amped up with new graphics and a heftier focus on the builds and the science, it just wasn’t the same good ol’ MYTHBUSTERS. And so, the program fell away the way most successful series peter out in the end.

To try to bring back the MYTHBUSTERS shine, Science Channel came up with MYTHBUSTERS THE SEARCH, a competition to find the next generation of hosts. Tonight is the finale episode.

THE SEARCH uses the same format as most reality TV competitions. Several people show up to be the final winner (in this case, winners), accomplishing various goals to make it through to the next round. At the end of each episode one contestant is usually (although not always) eliminated. After seven episodes, THE SEARCH has gone from ten competitors down to four. Remaining tonight are Martin Pepper, Jonathan Lung, Brian Louden, and Tamara Robertson, after the elimination of Tracy Fanara, Jason Kerestes, Sarah Petkus, Ben Nowack, Chris Hackett, and Allen Pan. Eliminations often occurred because individuals simply didn’t have build skills, or because they didn’t contribute to the team effort, or their contribution led to the team fail. In one instance, the individual, as was often the case, went off to do his own thing, leaving the team to manage the rest of the build on their own.

Each episode featured a team build and an individual effort, looking for build skills, science smarts, and on-camera charisma. They looked at such myths and science tests as improvising a weapon from junk in a junk yard, building an ejector seat in a spy car, painting walls with explosives, and shooting blind. Thus, much of their tests were rehashes of old MYTHBUSTERS themes. In tonight’s finale, they will hearken back to water heaters and duct tape to launch Buster on heated-water power and to try to stay afloat on taped up floats. How creative…

I think what irks me most is the lack of originality in the myths the producers choose to test. What I have liked the best has been watching the contestants try to think through the problems and build solutions. The problem is, the show hasn’t really had the time to explore as much of the science as they have to show the team dynamics and the misfires that have led to people being dismissed from the competition. Well, this is a reality contest show after all.

THE SEARCH’s host is Kyle Hill, a podcaster and MYTHBUSTERS superfan. While he makes an amiable host, he hardly adds to the science or the builds, although he is expected to work with each episode’s special guest and the crew to decide who gets the week’s “coveted MVP trophy” for work well done and who gets booted from the competition. And I wonder if he will move on to the new show, if a new show survives this competition. He, at least, has some personality.

As I said, tonight is the finale, which promos say “goes out with a bang.” I don’t know. Each week that I have watched, I am left feeling a bit meh. Here’s the problem. MYTHBUSTERS started out with Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, who though they weren’t superstars or experienced showmen at the time, had something special that caught the audience’s attention. Adam’s enthusiasm and good humor, Jamie’s curmudgeon stoicism yet devotion to science and common sense made a great team. Then they added the build team of Kari, Tory, and Grant, soon giving them their own focus on the show. They had a great camaraderie, and they were fun to watch. Everyone was fun to watch. This new group — not so much.

The problem as I see it is, these new competitors are definitely MYTHBUSTERS fans. They know science, they have build skills, but they lack charisma. And they have no camaraderie. That they can build on, of course. But none of them “sparkle” on camera like the originals did. None of them shows the passion for science and process that the originals had. They just show the geekiness of playing at MYTHBUSTERS. As Allen Pan said after being eliminated from the competition, “This has been the best summer camp ever.” But summer camp doesn’t lead to a job.

So the question for viewers is, “Do you miss me yet” enough to watch whoever wins this competition, week after week, should MYTHBUSTERS THE SEARCH become MYTHBUSTERS the renewed series? And will the producers be original enough to ramp up the myths and science to make the show interesting enough to watch? For some, this final episode just may be their last MYTHBUSTERS.

Watch the MYTHBUSTERS THE SEARCH finale tonight (February 25) at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT), repeated at midnight ET (9:00 p.m. PT) on the Science Channel. According to their Twitter account, “We will be announcing the winner(s) live on air…”

MYTHBUSTERS Revival Already?

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Just when I thought I had reached closure on the MYTHBUSTERS final season comes news that the Science Channel is planning to revive the series. Already? The Science Channel currently airs reruns of the popular but now defunct science-based series starring Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.

Apparently fans like me, and presumably you, have been so bummed at losing new episodes that the Science Channel has launched a crusade to bring it back, albeit with new hosts. This according to an article in the authoritative entertainment trade publication The Hollywood Reporter.

The Science Channel’s MYTHBUSTERS page now even sports a casting call page. Here’s the deal. They want to do a reality-TV style competition with 15 wannabe myth busters vying for the enviable job of building cool stuff and testing odd ideas. They will try to solve challenges, including classic MYTHBUSTERS myths and some new ones. And they will be judged during the competition by a panel who have been involved in MYTHBUSTERS over the years. I don’t know just what that means, but it would be awesome if it included Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, or Grant Imahara. The winner or winners would then host a new MYTHBUSTERS series.

Here’s the thing: Can anyone ever replace Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman as the MYTHBUSTERS? Science Channel says it’s a “franchise” they “didn’t want to let go.” Then why didn’t they just import the original hosts? I’ve also read that they wanted to bring on the next generation of science geeks to host the show. Who would better represent that group than Kari, Tory, and Grant, who already have the experience and expertise to carry off the MYTHBUSTERS franchise and who fans have loved watching for more than a decade? In fact, many show fans abandoned the show when the fab three left the series last year.

Sure, I get it. Freshen up the series with new stars and let it flourish on a new channel. Maybe encourage a new generation of science geeks by seeing hosts closer to their own age doing cool, fun stuff solving mysteries and engaging their curiosity. Maybe they’re right after all. And if that’s the case, I hope we see a real change that truly encourages a new generation, including girls and minorities, who do real science.

And if they want to attract this viewer, they won’t mess with the format too much. I’ve seen too many MYTHBUSTERS-wannabe shows fall flat on their faces because they just didn’t have the Savage-Hyneman magic.

What I am personally not excited about is a typical reality-TV competition where a group of competitors are given a few hours to do a build, we see them slave away, work up a sweat, express drama over doubts and slip ups, then appear before judges who disparage their work, walk off to “discuss” the results, and then send someone home. Enough already. What I hope for is something different, something inspiring, something that shows off competitors’ skills and aspirations and ingenuity — not their failures and disappointments. Yes, failures have always been part of the process, but it’s never been part of MYTHBUSTERS defeat. Failure has been part of learning and coming up with an answer, even if it was busted or plausible, or  better yet, confirmed.

Besides, Adam and Jamie tried hosting a reality TV competition series (UNCHAINED REACTION – 2012) based on doing builds, and it barely lasted a season.

What Adam and Jamie had, and then grew with Kari, Tory, and Grant, was a camaraderie and a team spirit. Without it, this new show will become just another reality-TV build show. Let’s hope this attempt to revive MYTHBUSTERS remains in the spirit of that chemistry. And let’s hope that MYTHBUSTERS fans will find a place in their hearts for a series revival of epically short notice.

MYTHBUSTERS Series Finale Recap

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Well, this does it friends. Saturday night’s episode of MYTHBUSTERS was titled “Grand Finale” for a reason. It was the very last episode of what has rightly been called a life changing series. Life changing for its hosts, life changing for its fans, and life changing for a world in need of a textbook example of working and playing with the scientific principle. And hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman have never disappointed, including Saturday night.  Except in this final episode, they ramped up everything they have ever done, ending the series with a bang — literally.

The grand finale featured four epic experiments:

RV Blowup

First up was ramping up use of the slow motion camera. Their highest previous frame rate was 10,000 frames per second, and this time the MYTHBUSTERS crew blew up an RV – built of both solid metal and flimsy wood, making for an interesting visual spectacle – with 850 pounds of ANFO and shot it at an incredible 50,000 frames per second. Not only was the explosion amazing, but the multiple playbacks were wonderfully satisfying, watching the sparks, the flames, the smoke, and the bits of RV fly out in slow motion and the shock wave spread out like some kind of special effect.

Truck Wedge

In an homage to a favorite past episode, the MYTHBUSTERS crew ramped up the Truck Wedge episode in a test of momentum versus history. If you remember the past episode, Adam and Jamie hitched a steel wedge to the front of a dump truck and ran it through a line of parked cars as a method of clearing through heavy traffic. This time, they built a bigger, better wedge and strapped it to a semi truck and ran it through a double line of 20 cars then more than 200 props from 14 years of MYTHBUSTERS shows: cars, planes, Christmas trees, brick walls, water tanks, boxes, tables, toilets, the killer washing machine, the needle in a haystack – you name it – ending it with the 1967 Chevy Impala strapped with a Jato rocket. The wedge worked so well, the truck never slowed down from the 45 miles per hour speed at which driver Adam initially rammed the mélange. Adam had intended the exercise as a catharsis for fans as the MYTHBUSTERS crashed through the string of props and destroyed them, but it turned out to be cathartic for him as well, bringing up tears.

Buster’s Farewell

For Buster’s final farewell, Adam and Jamie thought it should be in the guise of the superhero he has been for the series, suffering through demise after demise in the name of science and human knowledge. And so it was that they dressed Buster in a superhero suit, strapped him to a rocket sled at the New Mexico Tech facility while assuming a flying-superhero pose, toasted him by smacking him in the head with a bottle of champagne – a couple of times to make it break – and firing off 10 rockets to send the sled off at 780 miles per hour toward a cement block wall. In the end, there was nothing left of poor Buster, just a hole left in the wall by the impact of the rocket sled. In the reunion episode that followed, Adam and Jamie presented Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara with Plexiglas boxes containing what tiny bits of Buster they found that survived, including small pieces of the superhero outfit.

Biggest Explosion

The final ramp-up of the episode – of the series – was the explosion to end all explosions. Picking up where the series’ most famous explosion left off (exploding cement truck), Adam and Jamie packed 5001 pounds of ANFO into a cement truck, to not only ramp up the original cement truck experiment but also to ramp up the biggest explosion they had ever done. You see, in the original episode the MYTHBUSTERS crew used only 850 pounds of explosive. And in the previous biggest explosion, the MYTHBUSTERS crew had used 5,000 pounds of ANFO trying to make diamonds. This episode outdid both. And once they loaded the cement truck with ANFO, Adam and Jamie went to their safety shed, counted down a final time, and kaboom! “That was magnificent,” said Adam one last time. The slow motion camera replays showed the cement truck disappear in a cloud of dirt and smoke and flame, leaving a crater and only bits of metal.

Reunion Episode

Right after the official Grand Finale episode, Adam and Jamie met with former co-hosts Kari, Tory, and Grant to reminisce about the past 14 years of MYTHBUSTERS. There were tears and laughs and clips from past episodes. They shared their favorite myths, their least favorite moments, and things they learned from their experiences. It was the perfect way to end the series, bringing back together the five who have filled our lives with so much fun and science, and who were torn away from us a year ago when Kari, Tory, and Grant left and the series was reduced to just the two hosts. Speak of catharsis. As a fan, I thank MYTHBUSTERS for including all five in one final revisit with their fans.

If you missed tonight’s two episodes – “Grand Finale” and “Reunion” – they repeat Sunday night at 9:00 pm ET (6:00 pm PT) and 10:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. PT) on the Science Channel. And at 8:00 p.m. ET (5:00 p.m. PT), there’s a “lost episode” involving duct tape that precedes the repeats on the Science Channel. Don’t miss it!

My personal thanks to Adam Savage, Jamie Hyeman, Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara and the entire MYTHBUSTERS crew for 14 years of great entertainment and adventure. My daughter and I will miss you terribly. We will join you for repeats on the Science Channel from time to time to recall all those great times.

MYTHBUSTERS Recap: Awesome Fan Foursome

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MYTHBUSTERS fans have always been a big part of the show. They’ve suggested 240 of the myths that have appeared in episodes over the past 14 years, according to this weekend’s “Reddit Special.” It was only natural that Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman include some fan requests for the final season, and they turned to their Reddit “Ask Me Anything” forum for some ideas, getting some 7,000 recommendations. Of those that were actually usable on television, Adam and Jamie whittled the list down to four.

Buster Drop

You couldn’t have a final season of MYTHBUSTERS without an appearance by Buster, the crash dummy. In this episode, Buster got to take the ride – well, several rides – of a lifetime, falling from a Sikorsky helicopter to test whether he could survive a 1,000-foot drop in an inflated giant “hamster ball.”

Wearing shock watches, test swatches that break at different impact levels, Buster first enjoyed a ride inside the helicopter with Adam, who then with an evil laugh kicked Buster out the door for a control impact reading without the hamster ball. Buster didn’t survive, breaking all the shock watches.

Then Adam and Jamie loaded Buster inside the hamster ball and suspended him by a tether beneath the helicopter and dropped him the 1,000 feet. The idea was that the hamster ball would reduce Buster’s terminal velocity from 120 mph to around 50 mph, making the fall survivable. But all the shock watches broke once again, so Buster still didn’t survive.

But that wasn’t Buster’s last thrill ride. Adam and Jamie had one more idea before calling this myth. Remembering the 2012 “Bubble Boy” episode, in which they wrapped Adam in bubble wrap and dropped him from 35 feet, they decided to load the hamster ball with bubble wrap after stuffing Buster inside, and once again they suspended Buster 1,000 feet from beneath the helicopter and dropped him. But again, all the shock watches broke, meaning that Buster didn’t survive. Sorry fans.

  • Conclusion: busted.

Flatus Video

Fans suggested Adam and Jamie test the efficacy of a video they had seen online catching someone passing gas using a thermal camera. It showed a person in street clothing and a stream of dark gas shooting from their behind. Now, Adam and Jamie’s producers wouldn’t let them shoot what they really wanted to do to test this myth, so Adam built a mechanical Whoopee Cushion with a rubber cushion surrounded by a water box heated to body temperature.

When they used a thermal camera to shoot their device in the act of passing gas, the camera showed the noisy end of the cushion heating up – and the device made a flatus sound – but there was no image of gas passing. No matter how hard or fast they pumped the device.

However, Adam was able to reproduce an image of dark gas shooting “from his behind” by attaching a hose to an aerosol can of air duster, like that computer operators use to clean equipment, and sticking the hose between his legs. That gas gets very cold quickly, proving the myth false. Using steam, Jamie demonstrated what an actual hot gas looks like in a thermal camera, and it isn’t dark as it is in the online video. “They got it all wrong,” said a skeptical Jamie.

  • Conclusion: busted.

Paperweight Championship

Some of the MYTHBUSTERS’ most inventive experiments have involved idioms, and a fan favorite request was to test the idiom, “You can’t punch your way out of a paper bag.” In this myth, Jamie built a life-size paper bag and Adam went to a professional boxing gym to learn how to punch.

After a little testing, Adam figured that he needed to hit a piece of paper with 35 pounds of punch if it were sitting still. But what if the bag weren’t sitting still? What if it moved when it hit it? What if there was more room inside the bag than his reach? Jamie built the bag just beyond Adam’s reach.

To test the myth, Adam would do three rounds. Wearing boxing gloves, he could punch at almost 600 pounds of force.

In round 1, Adam punched for 1 minute 22 seconds before breaking through the paper bag, not exactly the trivial task implied by the idiom. In round 2, Adam punched for 1 minute 4 seconds, again not a trivial result. And in round 3, it took Adam 1 minute 14 seconds, a similar result to the other two.

Before calling the myth busted, however, they decided to remove the boxing gloves and Adam punched his way out in 2 seconds! The truth of the idiom is, Adam pointed out, “it’s a matter of surface area.” The smaller surface area allowed Adam to punch right through. Bare knuckles beats paper bag!

  • Conclusion: confirmed.

Snoo Blowup

The final segment wasn’t really a myth. It was a gratuitous explosion of sorts. Fans asked Adam and Jamie to blow up an inflatable Snoo (the Reddit alien logo), complete with color paint and glitter. And so for the fun of it, and because their fans asked for it, Adam and Jamie built an inflatable Snoo, wrapped bubbles filled with paint around explosives, and filled the inflated Snoo with as much explosives, paint, and glitter as possible, and made it go boom. Shot with a slow motion camera at 25,000 frames per second, it was pretty amazing.

  • Conclusion: Awesome.

Just so you’re prepared, next week will be the MYTHBUSERS final new episodes on Discovery Channel. There will be two. At 8:00 p.m. ET (5:00 p.m. PT) will be the Season Finale. Then at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT) will be a MYTHBUSTERS Reunion, as I’ve read it, a revisit of the past 14 years of MYTHBUSTERS by the whole cast. So if you’ve missed Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara, tune in!

If you missed this week’s episode, it re-airs on the Science Channel Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT) and midnight ET (9:00 p.m. PT). Catch it while you can.

MYTHBUSTERS Recap: Gummy Pooy Rocketman

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Rockets. If there’s one thing a MYTHBUSTERS fan loves it’s … well, it’s explosions, but what’s a rocket but explosions with wings? And in this week’s episode of MYTHBUSTERS, “Rocketman,” fans got their final fill of explosions with wings.

Over fourteen years, MYTHBUSTERS has seen its fair share of rocket launches, including four attempts to launch a car with rockets and five to run a car by rocket sled into a concrete wall — all among my personal favorite episodes. This week, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman tested the idea that you can use almost anything within reason as a fuel source, say a hydrocarbon like sugar in the form of gummy bears.

Hybrid Rocket

To test the idea, Adam and Jamie used a hybrid rocket consisting of two main parts. One part was a “fuel grain” containing some form of the fuel. The second part was the accelerant, in this case liquid oxygen. The two were ignited by an explosive.

Their fuel grain was a tube inside of a tube, between which was fed the gummy bears. Inside the middle tube sat the explosive.

Unsure which form of gummy bears would serve best as a fuel grain, Adam created three. In form one, Adam and Jamie tightly packed raw, in-natural-form gummy bears — the tighter together the better to reduce air pockets between them. In form two, Adam melted gummy bears into one uniform gummy bear. And in form three, Adam heated gummy bears into a hard crystal, boiling out all the water.

Adam filled the channel between the two tubes in the fuel grains with the different forms of gummy bears, and the crew left for the Mojave Desert testing grounds for lift off. There, Adam and Jamie assembled the fuel grain, liquid oxygen canister, and nose cone with drogue chute and altimeter for each rocket and let the rocket engineers fill the canisters with liquid oxygen. The rocket engineers are like the explosives experts in other episodes, who are the only ones allowed to work with dangerous explosives on set.

Adam called out the usual countdown, flipped the switch, and tapped the launch button for the first fuel grain, containing the gummy bears in their natural state. There was an ignition flame and sizzle, but no launch. “That’s the sound of an engine not working,” Jamie said glibly. “That’s the sound of failure,” said Adam, grimly. Looking at the rocket nozzle afterwards, they found a gummy ooze.

In launch two, Adam and Jamie switched out fuel grains for the uniform gummy bear and prepared the rocket for launch. Once again, Adam counted down to zero and tapped the launch button. There was a flame and a hum, but again no movement.

In launch three, they went through the same procedure with a fuel grain made of crystallized gummy bears. The result was the same: no launch.

Never a crew to accept three fails-to-launch as a sign of total failure, Jamie sprayed the inside tube with some adhesive and poured in gunpowder for some added “encouragement” and tried the crystallized gummy bears rocket one more time.

Again, they were rewarded with a flame but they failed to launch, and Adam and Jamie wondered, was the myth busted or was their methodology at fault? For a glimpse into the possibilities, they replaced the gummy bears with paraffin, a standard-type fuel, and the rocket took off as it should, although it only flew between 600 and 700 feet, far short of the height it should have reached.

  • Conclusion: None

Solid Rocket

The MYTHBUSTERS crew decided they had bit off more than they could chew with the hybrid rocket and moved on to a single stage or solid rocket motor, which is a mixture of solid fuel (gummy bears), oxidizer (oxygen), and binder, with an igniter at the bottom. Such rockets require a license to create the actual solid fuel cylinder, so Adam created a powdered form of gummy bears to ship off to rocket makers.

For his part, Jamie had another idea, one that he thought might have more useful applications: using poop as a fuel. Poop is more readily available on, say, a space station, where it would be waste product not good for anything else. If they could prove it would launch, then their experiment might actually be useful. So Jamie brought in bags of puppy poo, dried it, powdered it, and sent it to the rocket maker to also create a solid fuel cylinder.

Once they received the solid fuel cylinders from the rocket makers, Adam and Jamie returned to the Mojave Desert and once again set up the rocket launcher.

Before using their gummy bear and poo solid rockets, they tested a standard paraffin-fuel solid rocket as a control. It launched beautifully, attaining a height of 1,130 feet. That seemed shallow, but then they realized there was quite a lot of wind at launch, so they waited for the wind to subside and retested, reaching a height of 4,491 feet.

Next, it was time to test the powdered gummy bears solid rocket. It, too, launched wonderfully, reaching a height of 3,691 feet, 82 percent of the standard fuel. Adam and Jamie decided that while that was amazing, the goal of any fuel is to maximize thrust to attain the greatest height, and the gummy bears fell short of the control standard.

Finally, they tested the powdered dog-poo solid rocket. Jamie was rewarded with another amazing lift off, this one reaching a height of 2,900 feet. Interestingly, even though it didn’t reach the height of the gummy bears rocket, Jamie concluded this rocket had merit.

His reasoning was that while gummy bears with its high sugar content might launch kids like a rocket, it isn’t as readily available as a potential fuel source as poo is. And while poo isn’t as powerful as standard rocket fuel, in a pinch and with refinement, it might actually be useful.

  • Conclusion: both plausible

Miss the show? Catch the relaunch on the Science Channel Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT) and midnight ET (9:00 p.m. PT). Oh! Did you catch the shout-out to MYTHBUSTERS this past week on CBS’s LIMITLESS? A side character mentioned watching MYTHBUSTERS and noted how sad that this was its final season.

MYTHBUSTERS Recap: Revisiting Bullets, Bombs, and Drifts

MythBusters Recap "Failure Is Never an Option" Episode

Each episode of this final season of MYTHBUSTERS so far has been an homage to something from past seasons. This week in “Failure Is Not an Option,” MYTHBUSTERS tipped their hats to fans, always in their quest to find the more perfect test for the hundreds of myths attempted over 14 years.

It’s been a signature of MYTHBUSTERS that even when they have done their utmost to test a myth, when fans have called foul over a result, when feasible the crew have tried it again. This week was the last time for three fan favorites: What Is Bullet-Proof, What Is Bomb-Proof, and San Francisco Drift.

What Is Bullet-Proof?

The first time Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman tested this myth – to see if a brass cigarette lighter would stop a 22-caliber full metal jacket bullet – was in 2004. It didn’t stop the bullet. But a fan suggested there may have been a way that a bullet could have been stopped by a bullet — by a ricochet shot.

Adam and Jamie first replicated their original experiment and duplicated the results. The bullet went right through the lighter and almost all the way through their ballistics gel “Buster.” Then they set up a ricochet shot.

Setting up a concrete paver, which in the past proved to be the best substance for a ricochet, they positioned it at a 45-degree angle to a target to see where the bullet would hit so they could then set up their Buster and lighter. But the bullet flew off at too high an angle and totally missed the target. Adam reset the angle at 25 degrees, but the bullet shattered into bits. Finally, Adam reset the angle at 15 degrees, which proved to be perfect, resulting in the bullet hitting the target dead center.

Replacing the target with Buster and the lighter, Jamie took his shot and the results were textbook. The bullet hit the lighter and bounced off. “Almost like we knew what we were doing,” quipped Jamie. “Now we know how it can happen,” said a gleeful Adam.

  • Revised Conclusion: Plausible

But the MYTHBUSTERS crew weren’t finished. Oh, no, there was one more bullet-proof myth to test. It seems someone was saved from a 12-gauge shotgun blast by a 30-gallon fish tank that sat between him and the shooter. Only, Adam and Jamie didn’t know what kind of ammunition was used.

So first they tried bird shot. Adam’s shot blasted through both sides of the tank, but the pellets didn’t reach Buster. Instead, shards of glass hit Adam. The slow motion camera showed that it was the shock wave of the gun blast that shattered the back of the tank, not the bird shot.

Next, Jamie tried buck shot. The front of the tank blew away but not the back. The larger pellets are designed to hurt flesh, not hard surfaces, and when they hit the water in the tank, it took away all their energy.

Finally, Adam used a deer slug. This shot made it all the way through the front and the back of the tank, but still didn’t reach Buster. The slow motion camera showed that the slug was flattened, producing a drag effect that made the slug fall far short of Buster once out of the tank.

It seems a 30-gallon tank can save you from a shotgun blast.

  • Conclusion: Confirmed

What Is Bomb-Proof?

The MYTHBUSTERS crew have tested lots of myths about the effects of bombs on survivors. This one suggested that you can survive a blast by being equidistant between two identical explosions. The idea was that the pressure waves from the two blasts would cancel each other where they intersect in the middle.

To test the myth, Adam and Jamie set up a raft on the lake at Ione, one of their favorite sites for testing explosions. Not only is it far from civilization for safety, but the lake is perfect for shooting aerial shots to show the shock waves.

The raft contained seven sensors, which would test the blast pressure at one-foot intervals. The control test used one 5-pound round of TNT at one end of the raft, suspended 3 feet above the raft.

After the explosion, the data showed that at the closest sensor the pressure was 135 psi, the center pressure was 50 psi, and the furthest pressure was 25 psi.

Then Adam and Jamie reset the raft with two 5-pound rounds of TNT, one at each end set equidistantly, to be set off simultaneously. After an initial failure to explode, they reset the charge and then BAM! they enjoyed the blast and a very interesting set of pressure data. Seems that the center pressure didn’t go down as predicted by the myth — it doubled to 100 psi. “Like two hammers hitting,” said Jamie, “and that’s a bad place to be.” You wouldn’t survive the blasts by being equidistant between them.

  • Conclusion: Busted

San Francisco Drift

When MYTHBUSTERS first tested this myth, the question was which was faster, slowing down for curves in a race through a two-mile course, or drifting through curves on the same course. The results showed that drifting wasn’t any faster. But a fan suggested that driving on a dirt course might change the results.

Adam and Jamie set up a course back at the Ione lake setting, its clay base seemingly perfect for testing this myth.

First, Jamie drove the course of twists and turns as the control, slowing and not drifting for each curve. His times through the course were 2 minutes and 20 seconds and, in a second run, 2 minutes and 22 seconds.

Then Adam drove the course drifting through all the curves. Taking the course as fast as he could twice, his times were 2 minutes and 24 seconds and 2 minutes and 23 seconds. Not any faster.

Emerging from the car all excited and learning of his times, Adam reacted with disappointment, “No way! That was awesome.”

Looking at the aerial footage, it was apparent that while Adam drove faster than Jamie in some curves, in others he lost traction and was slower. So drifting was no advantage on a dirt course.

  • Conclusion: Busted

Missed all the excitement? See the replay on the Science Channel Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT) and midnight ET (9:00 p.m. PT).

MYTHBUSTERS Recap: Hats-Off Episode to Volunteers

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Saturday night’s new episode of MYTHBUSTERS was an homage to its volunteers. Over its 14 years, MYTHBUSTERS have used more than 3,500 volunteers to test its myths, and Adam thanked them all saying, “To all our intrepid volunteers, we say we literally couldn’t have done it without you.” As a show that has been as devoted to them as to its fans, this says a lot about the devotion of hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, who often focused their episodes around the feedback of its viewers.

One part of the program in particular is a testament to that, revisiting and retesting the question: Which is the more effective tool against a rallying crowd of zombies, an ax or a gun? Viewers said that Adam’s first attempt to wield an ax to slay zombies was lame. So in this zombie finale, they put the question to one final test.

In the second part of the program, Adam and Jamie tested a question requiring a sophistication and effort they likely couldn’t have achieved without the experience they’ve gained over the years: Which is the more efficient method for grocery shoppers to wait to get to the checkout line, pick a line and wait or wait in a serpentine line for the next available cashier?

Just Ax a Zombie

When MYTHBUSTERS last tested the Zombie Apocalypse myth, Adam wielded a fake ax and scored a “kill” by simply touching a zombie in the head. That made it appear to be the best method. But viewers insisted that it would take way more than a touch in the head to kill a zombie, a point that Adam willingly accepted. So this time, Adam rigged his ax with an accelerometer that would require striking a zombie at 7.8 meters per second, enough  force to kill a zombie. When the foam-coated axe blade struck a zombie head at that speed, a “bing!” sounded and a light board showed “Kill” and the zombie would fall to the floor.

With the ax ready for swinging, Adam and Jamie gathered 200 volunteers mocked up in their best zombie wear in an empty warehouse and began the test. Adam stood in the center of a circle surrounded by zombies, and as Jamie let loose a siren the zombies closed in on Adam, who commenced the chopping. But it wasn’t long before Adam was overwhelmed and Jamie once again sounded the horn to call off the horde. Counting the dead, Adam had only slain eight zombies, not a very effective showing.

Next was Jamie’s turn using a semi-automatic pistol. He managed to kill only seven. Adam was still ahead by one dead.

That wasn’t looking very good for the fan complaint, because neither was an improvement over the past episode. It also only tested for a horde surrounding Adam and Jamie. Films usually show zombies moving through obstacles, like farm yards with buildings and implements and industrial areas with fences. To ramp up the test, the MYTHBUSTERS crew created a fence with a doorway.

Once again Adam wielded his ax, and this time his results improved. Adam’s number of kills increased dramatically to 67. Jamie’s increased dramatically, too, to 57 kills. However, the gun was still not a better tool for killing zombies than the ax.

I must add a personal observation: Adam was taking it easy on the volunteers. I suggest if you were truly faced with an advancing horde of zombies, you wouldn’t be zonking zombies at 7.8 meters per second on the forehead, you’d be swinging with all your might. Adam got tired after a while just bonking heads. Swinging that ax would tire you out a lot more quickly.

And as is usual for MYTHBUSTERS, Adam and Jamie didn’t settle for testing a myth in its pure form. They had to ramp it up one more time. Adam wanted to test it for the mother of all zombie killing tools: the chainsaw. Mocking up a rip snorting chainsaw with fake chain and fake blood, Adam also added a timer to ensure he was applying the “ripping chain” long enough to buzz into a zombie for the kill.

Bringing on the horde one last time, Adam sawed through zombies like a man on a mission, killing every one of them. And in his book, ranking a 100% on any test is a win.

  • Conclusion: Confirmed

Clean Up on Aisle 5

The question in this test was whether it’s really more efficient to look for the shortest checkout line at the grocery store or to get in one line and wait your turn for the next available cashier — the pick-your-own line versus the serpentine line. To conduct the test, Adam and Jamie set up their own very accurate grocery store, including 800 feet of shelves lined with more than 5,000 food items, all marked with prices, shopping carts and baskets, and five cashier stands complete with flashing numbered lights and pricing scanners.

The MYTHBUSTERS crew conducted a control run first to test that their setup would work, bringing in all 120 volunteers. It didn’t take long to clog the aisles and lines. So they reduced the number of shoppers by 25 percent and the queues became more realistic. Then it was time to begin a real test.

The rules were simple. First, a volunteer got a shopping list and a time card. They shopped and when they were finished and in a waiting line the time card was stamped a first time. When they reached the cashier stand the time card was stamped a second time, marking how long they waited in line. To make the checkout wait more realistic, they added two “bogies”: a price check and someone paying by check, requiring authentication.

First up was the pick-your-own-line test. With 138 shoppers going through the experience, the average wait time was 5 minutes and 38 seconds, with the fastest being 2 minutes and 16 seconds while the slowest was 9 minutes and 21 seconds. The customer satisfaction averaged 3.48 out of 5.

They followed that with the so called serpentine line test, where you get into the back of a winding line and wait for your turn to go to the next available cashier. Using this method, the average wait time was 6 minutes and 56 seconds – 27 seconds longer than the other method – but satisfaction was higher: averaging 4.33 out of 5.

The reason for the longer time was that waiting in the serpentine line, it took longer to get from the end of the line to the open cashier stand, but satisfaction was higher because it was perceived as being fairer.

  • Conclusion: Busted (but better)

If you missed tonight’s “Volunteer Special” of MYTHBUSTERS, don’t fret. It repeats Wednesday on the Science Channel at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT) and midnight ET (9:00 p.m. PT). Watch it live or volunteer to set your DVR.

MYTHBUSTERS Recap: Auto Lifts and Tucks

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Some of the funnest episodes of MYTHBUSTERS have involved toying with cars. Dropping them off cliffs. Pushing them with rockets into concrete barriers. And blowing them up. In this week’s new episode, “Driven to Destruction,” the MYTHBUSTERS capped our auto experience by testing two amazing myths: Crushing a car with explosives and lifting a car with a single vacuum cleaner.

Sucking It Up
It was Adam Savage’s idea to test the power of a single vacuum cleaner against the weight of a car. He began by simply sticking the end of a vacuum hose against a five-pound weight and trying to lift it, and it worked. Then he scaled up the experiment. Reasoning that it was a question of increasing the surface area to match the increase in weight, Adam built a larger suction cup attaching it to the vacuum hose through a manifold and tested it on a 50-pound weight, and that worked. Once again, it was time to scale up the experiment.

The car Adam wanted to lift weighed 2,600 pounds, so he created 40 suction cups providing 1,500 square inches of suction. He attached the suction cups to a cradle, which were suspended from a crane. The crane would lift the cradle, but it was the vacuum cleaner providing suction through the suction cups that would actually lift the car. Placing cups on the trunk lid, the roof, and the front hood of the car, Jamie Hyneman turned on the vacuum cleaner. Just as it seemed like the car would lift, a couple of the suction cups popped off the car and the car didn’t lift. Adam was bouncing with excitement, but he soon fell limp with disappointment as the suction cups failed. Turns out the sheet metal in the hood didn’t have structural integrity and the hood buckled.

Adam and Jamie realigned the suction cups and tried again, but the cups still didn’t hold. So they replaced the hood with a piece of sheet steel for more structure and tried the experiment again. That lifted the car a full inch before the suction cups released. While the idea of the experiment was to lift the car to the top of the crane, and this failed to do that, it did lift the car off the ground. There was a basis to the idea. The next step was to rethink their “suction cups.”

Instead of using what Adam called an octopus of 40 suction cups, the MYTHBUSTERS crew decided to try three large suction boxes made of Fin plywood, contoured to fit the shape of the car, and using rubber gasket seals on the bottoms. Once again, the boxes were attached to the cradle and connected to the vacuum cleaner with hoses and a manifold. This time, however, they put vacuum gauges on each box to ensure they were getting a suction before they lifted the cradle with the crane. Showing six inches of mercury of pressure, it was time to lift the cradle with the crane, and up it went, the suction of the single vacuum cleaner holding the car to the boxes. With great drama, Adam and Jamie watched as not only did the car lift above the one-inch mark, it went higher, and higher, and higher, as high as the crane could lift.

At the top of the crane, Jamie shut off the power to the vacuum cleaner and the suction let loose, and the car fell to the ground to Adam’s delight. “Like clockwork,” said Jamie. “I love, love, love doing car myths,” said Adam. “But this was my favorite! Next time someone tells you MYTHBUSTERS sucks, tell them, ‘Damn straight!'”

Note: The vacuum cleaner used for the initial scale tests looked like one of those home cyclone models. The model used in the field for the actual car lift looked like a shop wet/dry vac.

  • Conclusion: Confirmed

Crushing It
You know Jamie – Jamie wants a boom.  Only this time, rather than to simply use explosives to blow something up, Jamie wanted to use explosives to test a myth. And that he did. His idea for a car myth experiment was to flatten a car with explosives.

He began with a scale model test. But scale model cars don’t scale down properly for the materials, so to do the experiment properly, Jamie created his own model combining thin-sheet steel cans and pipes. The MYTHBUSTERS crew took Jamie’s scaled down models to their favorite bomb range in Alameda County and sandwiched it between two steel plates and used a single sheet of deta sheet explosive. The explosion gave Jamie a nice, satisfying boom and flattened the car model to less than an inch, which was one-fifth its original size.

Next, Jamie tried varying the number of sheets of steel above the scaled model, but that not only didn’t flatten the car, it also broke and melted some of the model pieces. To try the model experiment again, they went back to a simpler plate configuration, but tried 50 percent more explosives. And that squashed the car more aggressively, fusing what would have been its engine into the car’s body.

Satisfied that he had an experiment he could scale up to full size, Jamie headed with Adam to the mother of all explosion test sites in New Mexico. Using two massive steel plates – one embedded in the ground and one suspended above – they created a life-sized sandwich around a 1987 Yugo, a decrepit-looking car with a poor reputation, made in Yogoslavia; while it was still working they felt it clearly deserved to be flattened. Because the deta sheet explosive had torn up the scaled-down model, Jamie decided to use 1,000 pounds of ANFO, because it pushes with universal pressure instead of breaking things apart.

Jamie and Adam headed to an underground bunker for safety and then proceeded with the usual MYTHBUSTERS countdown. Five, four, three, two, one… BOOM! “That was very intense,” said an amazed Jamie. “Energetic,” said a shocked Adam. The explosion was so big, it sent the 3,000-pound gantry over 500 feet into the air. And the Yugo? It was gone. Not flattened — gone! The ANFO had punched a hole through the steel plate and blown the Yugo into bits, sending hunks of shrapnel hundreds of feet in every direction, landing one large chunk into a rental car. The shock wave cracked a windshield.

This experiment would clearly require some rethinking. They could have used larger sheets of steel plating, but they would have crushed the car just by their own weight, and that wasn’t the point of the experiment. So the only thing left to do was walk away.

  • Conclusion: Busted.

MYTHBUSTERS have made 48 cars go bye-bye since 2002. This episode was one of them. If you missed it, the program repeats Wednesday on the Science Channel at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT) and midnight ET (9:00 p.m. PT).

MYTHBUSTERS Recap: Foodies Blast

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It might seem strange, but working with food is nothing new to the MYTHBUSTERS crew. According to this week’s “Cooking Chaos” episode, they’ve done 71 stories on food! Remember the episode where food-science chef Alton Brown joined them to test the myth that you can cook a full Thanksgiving dinner under the hood of a classic Cadillac de Ville?

This week, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman attempted to replicate two very different online videos involving food. One that showed making smoothies by exposing fruits and vegetables to a tank with exploding water. And one that purported to show shooting shrimp through separate flour, egg wash, bread crumb, and flame stations at a target and bouncing onto a plate, arriving on the plate cooked and ready to eat as Shrimp Tempura.

Explosive Smoothies

Using a waterproof tank with ballistic-shield glass just like they saw in the video, Jamie and Adam suspended a tomato wrapped in shrink-wrapped plastic from the bottom of the tank, exposing it to a blasting cap. The idea was to ignite the blasting cap so the shock wave through the water would release the juice in the tomato without tearing or rupturing the tomato’s skin.

The first shockwave was seven inches from the tomato and they got a mouthful of juice, not exactly an efficient result. So they reset the distance between blasting caps and tomatoes to see what was the closest they could come without breaking the skin of the tomato, to see if it produced more juice. The closer the blasting cap s to the tomatoes, the more juice they produced. It turned out, the closest distance between the blasting caps and the tomatoes without rupturing a tomato skin was an inch and a half.

Comparing the juice they produced from the closest blasting cap (30 percent of the tomato) to the juice they could produce using an industrial juicer (62 percent), while commendable, it didn’t seem all that efficient. Maybe what Adam and Jamie needed was add more explosive power.

Moving from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department explosives range – site of many an episode with explosions – to the lake where many an underwater explosion has taken place, Jamie and Adam set up bags of fruits and vegetables at various ranges. The bags contained cucumbers, tomatoes, oranges, pineapples, and more, just as used in the video. They set them at a depth of five feet at distances from the explosives of 2 feet, 5 feet, 10 feet, and every 5 feet up to 40 feet, to see how the fruits and vegetables would take the force of 20 pounds of TNT and whether any unruptured fruit would produce juice.

The slow-mo camera replay showed an impressive shock wave and multiple after shocks from the lake bottom. As Adam and Jamie pulled up the bags of fruits and vegetables, it became apparent the ramp up of explosive power was a failure. They lost the bags at 2, 5, and 10 feet. The fruits and vegetables in the other bags were in various degrees of condition, but of those whose skins remained intact, the fruit inside was tender but there was no juice. A bigger blast was not better.

Replaying their videos, Adam and Jamie concluded that the tank contained the blasts, sending shock waves back and forth through the fruit and pulverizing the insides to produce juice. In the lake, the blast tore through the fruit and then continued on, but didn’t have a chance to pulverize the fruit into juice. Thus, while it’s possible for a blast to produce juice it isn’t a foregone conclusion.

  • Conclusion: Plausible

On-Target Tempura

The original video shows an air canon shooting shrimp through the air at a target. On its way, the shrimp is dusted with flour from an air canon below, sprayed with egg wash from above with an air valve, puffed with bread crumbs from below with another air canon, sizzled with flames from below, and then strikes a target with a pillow made of bubble wrap, against which it bounces and lands on a plate, fully cooked. Shrimp Tempura!

Jamie and Adam dutifully measured every aspect of the set up on the original video and duplicated it in a large empty warehouse.

Reusing the air gun from multiple previous episodes, Jamie and Adam first tested their ability to hit the target with their shrimp. And at first the only thing the shrimp hit was Adam with its “shrapnel.” Stabilizing their rig helped, but it wasn’t until Adam added a paper cup (called a sabot) behind the shrimp that they got a solid shot of air behind the shrimp and they hit their target.

Then Adam and Jamie arranged the rest of the set up, matching what they saw in the original video, all timed to the millisecond with timers and switches so the shrimp passed through each step of the tempura prep. It worked perfect the first time through, sending the shrimp through all four steps including a 500º F fireball without a hitch — well, except that most of the shrimp wasn’t coated and it wasn’t cooked.

They tried it a couple of times and the result was the same. There wasn’t much Jamie and Adam could do to change the variables, because if they slowed down the timing to improve the coating or the cooking, the shrimp wouldn’t hit the target. If they added more air power, it would shred the shrimp. But what they could do was increase the heat, from 500º F to 2100º F.

After pre-coating the shrimp, Adam and Jamie shot the shrimp through a sword forge. But the shrimp was still not cooked.

Their final attempt was to combine four sword forges – 12 feet of flame at 2100º F to expose the pre-coated shrimp longer – in the hope of recreating the results. But after shooting the shrimp and hitting the target, it was  still not cooked. “It’s not how fast the food moves through the flame,” said Adam, “it’s how long the heat can move through the food.” Jamie agreed: “The original video must have been faked.”

  • Conclusion: Busted

So in this episode of MYTHBUSTERS we got to feast on food and explosions. Pretty awesome! If you missed “Cooking Chaos,” you can catch a repeat on the Science Channel Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT) and midnight ET (9:00 p.m. PT). Bon apetit!

MYTHBUSTERS Recap: Tanker Implosion? Crushed!

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This week’s “Tanker Crush” episode of MYTHBUSTERS definitely wasn’t a “been there, done that.” After crushing more than 900 explosions, the MYTHBUSTERS crew finally took on a program about implosions. And it was a single-minded effort to do but one implosion — that of a 67,000-pound cold-rolled half-inch steel rail tanker, something that’s been on the MYTHBUSTERS list since nearly day one.

Why so long to tackle this myth? Because of its complexity.

In the original story, two rail workers steam cleaned a rail tanker car at the end of the day, then sealed it up, closing every hole and hatch. It rained, cooling the steam and creating a temperature differential, which means the external pressure was greater than the internal pressure, and the steel tank caved in. But to recreate the effect required a lot of effort, finding someone willing to part with a tanker car for the test, locating somewhere safe to perform the experiment, and getting permits. It took the final season to bring everything together.

Typical of MYTHBUSTERS technique, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman first scaled down the experiment.

Adam began by demonstrating the effect of heating water in a gallon metal can, sealing it, and then letting it cool. And it collapsed quickly. Then Jamie and Adam did the same to a 55-gallon metal drum. Structurally more sound, it look quite a bit longer, but it too collapsed, taking more than 15 minutes.

To better prepare for the main event, Adam and Jamie reset the 55-gallon drum experiment to take data, measuring the temperature, pressure, and time to collapse. Heating the water to nearly 200º F, the pressure dropped 16 inches and took 8 minutes for the collapse. Then they set up another 55-gallon drum, this time using steam as they would in the rail tanker. The temperature rose to 203º F, the pressure dropped 17.5 inches, and it took 16 minutes for the collapse.

The MYTHBUSTERS crew had been working with drums. To scale as closely as possible to the real event, Adam and Jamie built a scale model of an actual tanker – minus bulkheads – and ran another test. It took only 7 minutes at an 11-inch drop of pressure for the tank to collapse, attributable to the weaker construction Jamie surmised.

Finally, everything was ready for the real test. Using a remote two-and-a-half-mile track of rail in Oregon, the myth and one of the biggest production efforts in MYTHBUSTERS history was on.

Thermometers and pressure gauges wired into the tanker, Adam, Jamie, and crew used a huge portable industrial steam cleaner to clean the inside of the tanker, bringing the interior temperature to 209º F. Adam, suited in a heat-resistant suit, climbed onto the car and sealed the tanker and then rushed back to the safety bunker to watch. The local fire department turned on a hose of cold water to simulate rain, and the suspenseful countdown to implosion began.

After an hour and an amazing pressure drop of 27 inches – to a nearly perfect vacuum – the tanker failed to collapse. In their eyes, the MYTHBUSTERS crew had performed a flawless experiment but didn’t get the same results as in the original story. But they wouldn’t settle for the results.

Perhaps the tanker in the original story had been damaged or corroded, reasoned Adam and Jamie. So they ordered a corroded tanker for another attempt at the myth. This time they used an industrial vacuum pump to get the same pressure differential in a fraction of the time, but after an hour the results were the same: no collapse!

When they have tried all reasonable results to replicate the original myth and have failed, you know the MYTHBUSTERS: Try to replicate the results. Adam and Jamie brought in a crane and dropped a hefty chunk of concrete on top of the corroded tanker, denting the top. Then they vacuum pumped the tanker again.

This time, after 10 minutes and a drop in pressure of 23 inches, the tank collapsed — flattened like an elephant had stepped on a soda can. “I’ve never seen anything quite like that,” said Jamie in wonder, “something that sturdy collapsing like that.” Adam agreed: “It was beautiful!”

Of course, they couldn’t reproduce the original results so…

  • Conclusion: Busted!

Missed the episode? MYTHBUSTERS repeats Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT and midnight ET/9:00 p.m. PT on the Science Channel.