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Mythbusters
July 22, 2006

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.

14 Responses  
Rachel writes:  

Actually, Mr. Bean used a mega fire cracker, if I remember correctly. I would like to see the test redone with this considerably lower amount of firepower.

 
Kevin Melrose writes:  

Ha! I love the LEGO Mythbusters.

 
Johanna writes:  

Rachel, I’m not sure that would change things, since one of the problems with the level of firepower they did use was not evenly coating the walls — even with more gunpowder, they only hit part of them. But good catch on the source.

Kevin, I know, aren’t they cute?!?

 
James Schee writes:  

I love that show!

One of my favorties is one where they examine whether someone getting a cellphone call while pumping gas can spark an explosion.
Oh and whether a great white shark could really break through a metal cage like in Jaws.

Or whether driving around with the windows down can save more gas than driving with the AC on.

Or oh another favorite, where they try and prove a paper knife could actually kill someone

 
Johanna writes:  

There are so many good ones, aren’t there?

 
Lyle writes:  

It’s interesting how the show’s adapted with time, the original version was focused on urban legends (like the scuba diver grabbed by the fire fighting helicopter) but they ran through the ones that could be scientifically disproved after a couple of seasons and moved on to reality-checking entertainment and “old wives tales” (I know there’s a better term that doesn’t imply sexism, but I can’t think of it right now).

I like, too, that this is a “professionals at work” reality show that doesn’t spend all its time on the professionals yelling at each other and having ego trips. They’re having fun doing cool stuff, which translates to me having fun watching them. This show proves that personal conflict is not necessary for good reality TV.

 
Ali T. Kokmen writes:  

Ah, Mythbusters is another favorite of mine. And Discovery Channel is often kind enough to run many episodes in a row on weekends. Many times, these Mythbusters-marathons have saved me in those why-is-there-nothing-on-TV!! moods, or given me something to flip too when the baseball team of choice is playing too poorly to keep watching the game… ;-)

 
Ralf Haring writes:  

It’s interesting you should praise their use of rigorous scientific method because their lack of it’s use is part of what so often infuriates me when I watch the show. Too often I am left thinking “what about doing X” when they move on to something else. So many times, when they finally “prove” something one way or the other, I just want to throttle them because they haven’t explored some of the most obvious avenues.

That said, about half the time they get it right, such as when they were shooting shotguns at a precariously balanced pig carcass to disprove the guns-cause-people-to-fly-through-windows movie myth.

Unfortunately, that close balance of hating certain segments while finding others spot-on accurate means that it’s best if I just don’t watch the show.

 
Johanna writes:  

Have you ever seen the clip show? They did at least one episode where they go back to certain episodes and show what additional items were cut for time or because they didn’t contribute anything that wasn’t demonstrated in another way. So they may have tried other avenues, but they didn’t fit into the hour.

But yeah, you’re right, if it’s creating that uneven a reaction for you, better you skip it.

 
Ralf Haring writes:  

As far as reality shows go, I can stomach very few of them. Comedy Central had one a few years ago called Last Comic Standing, which was your standard elimination thing except with stand-up comedians. That was funny (duh).

I loved the skewering of reality shows in The Joe Schmoe Show.

The Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel is one that a friend turned me onto recently. It’s about Alaskan crab fisherman. There’s no contest or prize other than the real-life one of bringing in a big haul. Otherwise it’s just amazing seeing what goes into a harsh, harsh job like that.

 
Johanna writes:  

I’ve been watching the current Last Comic Standing on NBC, because I like Bill Dwyer (who got cut early, sadly) and Hell’s Kitchen, because it astounds me that personalities that disfunctional want to run a professional restaurant. I’ve also enjoyed in the past Beauty and the Geek (transcended its premise well) and whatever that one was where the kids learned to be wrestlers.

I saw ads for that Catch show, and it just looked so uncomfortable and painful to be those guys!

 
Lyle writes:  

The Deadliest Catch has got me to think a little about what went into that king crab meal.

Last season, I hated the personalities of Hells Kitchen but kept coming back for the cooking, though the one functional player did win the game… does that seem to be happening again?

 
Johanna writes:  

No idea, I didn’t know it ran last year. Some of the people they’ve gotten rid of so far seemed terrible, but others were ok.

 
Shawn Fumo writes:  

For reality shows, I’d also liked one on PBS where regular people tried out to become an opera singer for a night. Was very much based on individual performance rather than antagonism between the people involved. Plus I’m also usually a sucker for plotlines involving music (not so much in a rock band sense).

For something involving competition and oodles of drama and abstract visuals, I have to give a shout out to the Swan manga. Who knew a ballet comic would be so addictive?

 

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