Thanks to a co-worker, I’ve recently discovered Mythbusters. It’s a show where two special effects guys test urban legends to determine whether they’re plausible. (Most of the time, no.) Since they love to blow stuff up, when they disprove a myth, they then try to figure out how it could be done.
For instance, when they tried to paint a room by putting a stick of dynamite in a bucket of paint (idea provided by a Mr. Bean episode), they had to balance enough force to distribute the paint with not too much, because that would blow out the room’s walls. It didn’t work, of course. So then they tried to design a tool that would distribute the paint evenly, which also didn’t work — but the results were very Jackson Pollack-like.
Other myths I’ve seen recently include whether a scuba diver could be sucked up by a fire-fighting water tank, whether robbery plans seen in Hollywood caper films are possible, and whether a woman got pregnant during the Civil War from a bullet. Every episode also has random fun facts, as when the Civil War myth talked about typical clothing of the period (so they could test their gunshots going through the proper amount of fabric).
Given our current culture, it’s refreshing to see regular application of the scientific method and validation of rigorous logical thinking. It’s also a lot of fun and very creative. Here’s the Wikipedia entry for more information.
The best part of discovering a show like this now is, they’ve already had several seasons, so there are lots and lots of episodes new to me. I set my Tivo, and there’s almost always a new episode waiting for me an average of once a day. If you don’t have Tivo, the Discovery Channel tends to show them in marathons over the weekend, so you can sample several in an afternoon.
Even better, I just discovered that Irregular Webcomic uses the two Mythbusters leads as cameo characters, as played by Lego figures! I’m astounded that they managed to combine three of my favorite things.