MythBusters



MythBusters is an American pop science television program on the Discovery Channel starring special effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, who use their skills and expertise to test the validity of various rumors and urban legends of popular culture. The show is narrated by Robert Lee and is recorded primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The show was originally pitched to the Discovery Channel by producer Peter Rees from Beyond Television Productions in 2002. Discovery commissioned three pilot specials at that time. Hyneman came to appear on the show through Peter Rees, who had previously interviewed him for his appearance on the show Robot Wars. Savage, who had worked with Hyneman in commercials and the same Robot Wars episode, was later approached by Hyneman to help co-host the show, because, as Hyneman explained, he wasn't dynamic enough to host the show on his own. In July 2006, a cut down thirty-minute (as opposed to the usual 50 minutes) version of MythBusters without commercial breaks began airing on BBC 2 in the UK.

Each hour-long episode of MythBusters focuses on two or three (occasionally more) urban legends, popular beliefs, or Internet rumors, usually consisting of one that requires complex preparation and building and is the main focus on the episode, with less screen time afforded one or two simpler myths that are more easily testable or entail less visually dramatic results. To date, three experiments (35, 40, and 46) have been so involved that they consume the entire hour. The last two MythBusters specials (the Jaws Special and the Mega Movie Myths special) ran for two hours rather than one.

Some of the urban legends tested include:

* Can the unaided human voice shatter glass? (Breaking Glass)
* Can a penny dropped from a tall building kill a person at ground level? (Penny Drop)
* Is it possible to build a functioning, inconspicuous car ejector seat? (Mega Movie Myths)
* Did Ben Franklin's kite experiment really take place? (Franklin's Kite)
* Does a duck's quack echo? (Duck Quack)
* Can a rotating ceiling fan decapitate a person? (Ming Dynasty Astronaut)
* Can diving underwater protect a person from gunfire? (Bulletproof Water)
* Is it possible to break off a lock by shooting it with a gun? (Mega Movie Myths)

Most of the team's methods of testing urban legends are planned and executed in a manner to produce the most visually dramatic results possible, which generally involves explosions, fires, or vehicle crashes. Because of the emphasis on visual spectacle, and the many mishaps and injuries that have ensued, Savage has described the show as "Jackass meets Mr. Wizard." In addition, the MythBusters will usually only select a myth or claim for the main focus of the episode if it lends itself to such a spectacle, such as the idea that use of a cell phone will ignite gas fumes if used at a gas station, or the allegation that a shark can penetrate a boat or compromise a shark proof cage.

When a myth involves the limits of the human body, the MythBusters use either their resident crash test dummy, "Buster", or ballistics gel, which adequately replicates the consistency of human tissue and is used by ballistics engineers to test firearms and other projectiles. If the myth being tested is not too hazardous, the cast may conclude the show by performing the experiment on themselves. In one episode, however, when testing if the airplane crash position would actually help save lives, they strapped themselves into the crash rig after it had been tested using dummies. Although they all walked away, some sustained minor injuries.

There are myths and urban legends that the MythBusters refuse to test outright. Paranormal concepts, such as aliens or ghosts, are not addressed by the program because they cannot be tested by the scientific method. Even ones that can be are not held in high favor by the MythBusters because of the aforementioned lack of spectacle, as in one episode in which Savage commented, after testing the idea of pyramid power, "No more 'oogie-boogie' myths, please." The program will not engage in experiments that are harmful to animals or people and cannot be tested in any manner safely, such as when Hyneman and Savage refused to test whether a wet poodle could be dried off in a microwave oven. The book MythBusters: The Explosive Truth Behind 30 of the Most Perplexing Urban Legends of All Time (ISBN 1-4169-0929-X) also gives a list of a dozen urban legends that are not likely to be explored (although three of these twelve were eventually tested).

Hyneman and Savage use their extensive engineering and construction expertise to construct complex devices with which to perform their experiments, such as an automated toast assembly line to test the notion that toast really lands butter-side-down more often. They design, build and operate these machines at Hyneman’s M5 Industries special effects workshop, though they will operate them at other locations in San Francisco or elsewhere if the size or danger of the experiment requires it, such as the decommissioned Naval Air Station Alameda, Novato's decommissioned Hamilton Air Force Base, Mojave Spaceport, or the Mojave Desert, where the MythBusters test stories involving rockets. Other locations required by the myths being tested have included New Jersey (where they investigated the theory that Jimmy Hoffa is buried under Giants Stadium) and the Bahamas (where they tested some myths involving sharks).

Usually, the team tests a myth via a two-step process. They will first attempt to recreate the myth to determine if the circumstances of the myth, as described, achieve the alleged outcome. If they fail to recreate the outcome, they will then attempt to expand the parameters of the story as much as necessary — often to absurd lengths — until they duplicate the results. This second stage is referred to on the show as "the MythBusters way". For example, In the episode 7 segment "Raccoon Rocket", the MythBusters tested the urban legend of a person who was supposedly launched 200 feet out of a drainage culvert after pouring gasoline into the culvert, climbing in, and lighting the gasoline, in an attempt to kill a raccoon. The MythBusters recreated the circumstances by building a mockup culvert, stuffing Buster inside, and remotely igniting some gasoline. When they failed to launch Buster with this method, they packed Buster inside a sabot, closed an end of the culvert with explosives, and were able to launch Buster about 100 feet away.

When the exact details of a myth are somewhat unclear, The MythBusters will often compete with each other to find and implement the best solution to that problem. An example is when they tested a myth to see if a person could fly or glide by holding onto a sheet of plywood. Savage built a parachute-device from his supplied wood, while Hyneman opted for a glider-shape construct. Both, along with a typical stack of plywood, are tested.

Buster is a crash test dummy used in many of the more dangerous myth tests. As a testament to the danger of the tests in which he is used, Buster has had to be extensively repaired and rebuilt over the course of the series — to the point that an entire episode was devoted to his being rebuilt and upgraded to "Buster 2.0". The current Buster boasts improved joints, with a more realistic range of movement, and has easily replaceable wooden "bones", designed to break under the same stress as human bone. In addition, his new flesh is made of "Dragon Skin", a special fire-resistant silicone. The MythBusters have at times adapted Buster to fit specialized equipment or give him new functionality; for the purpose of testing the "Hammer Bridge Drop" myth, he was fitted with an accelerometer, while in the Shark Week special, he received temporary modifications that allowed him to punch sharks.

Buster has since been supplemented with additional dummies (manufactured by the company Simulaids), nicknamed "Jane", "Simulaide Suzy", and "Rescue Randy". They were introduced in the Killer Brace Position myth.

By the end of each episode, the MythBusters conclude each myth to be "Busted", "Plausible", or "Confirmed". The MythBusters deem a myth to be "Confirmed" when they are able to recreate the myth’s purported outcome with the described circumstances. The MythBusters often corroborate a confirmed myth with documented instances of the myth occurring in real life. "Plausible" conclusions (first used in the second season) are reached if they can only produce the described results by expanding the parameters by a reasonable margin (that is, if the circumstances needed to make the myth work are impractical, but still possible), or by the practical necessity of setting additional parameters that may or may not have been part of the myth described. This judgement is used if a myth is possible but unlikely, or if documented accounts of the myth exist that the MythBusters were not able to duplicate. A myth is "Busted" if the results cannot be replicated via either the described parameters nor reasonably exaggerated ones, or occur only with parameters so unusual that the likelihood of the myth’s validity is negligible.

Occasionally the MythBusters will give more than one designation to a myth. In "Bullets Fired Up", for example, they tested if a bullet fired straight up can fall and kill the shooter or innocent bystanders. They gave the myth all three designations: "Busted", "Plausible", and "Confirmed". This urban legend was "Busted", because bullets fired straight up will tumble to the ground at a non-lethal velocity; "Plausible", because a shooter is much more likely to fire at a slight angle, wherein the bullet will maintain its ballistic trajectory and be potentially lethal when it comes back down; and "Confirmed", because there are many eyewitness accounts of falling bullets killing people. In fact, many municipalities have laws explicitly prohibiting firing weapons into the air for that reason.

In the case of one myth, which alleged that a car passing behind a jet airliner could be overturned by the jet's engine thrust as it goes to full throttle, the myth was deemed inconclusive (Plausible), because it could not be duplicated due to logistical difficulties, despite the fact that it was documented by television news, and later recreated on a much larger scale with the CF6 engine from a Boeing 747 by the UK BBC2 television show, Top Gear.

If the MythBusters receive feedback from their fan site discussion forum and other sources asserting that the experiments were improperly conducted or incomplete, the show may revisit past myths and re-test them. As of April 28, 2006 there have been four episodes (14, 38, 46, and 51) dedicated solely to reevaluation. These revisions are conducted with new testing methods or historical information. To date, two previously "Busted" myths have actually been overturned. The "Chicken Gun" myth became "Plausible" and the "Who Gets Wetter?" myth, which asserted that running in the rain gets one less wet than walking in it, became "Confirmed" after their revisits. All other previously "Busted" myths were simply reaffirmed as such.

Hyneman and Savage are assisted by other crew members, most notably the staff of Jamie's M5 Industries workshop, collectively known as "The Build Team". This staff has appeared onscreen since the second season, and were given equal billing with Hyneman and Savage as hosts during the third season. Staff members have included M5 alumnus Tory Belleci (Salvatore Belleci), Kari Byron, (former) metal worker and welder Scottie Chapman, electrical engineer Grant Imahara, and Discovery Channel contest winner Christine Chamberlain (often referred to as the "Mythtern" as a play on "intern"). The MythBusters have also regularly consulted with other experts, such as folklorist Heather Joseph-Witham, who explained the origins of certain urban legends being explored in the first season. Much of the show's appeal comes from the interaction between Savage and Hyneman. This interaction is quite similar to a double act, wherein Hyneman plays the straight man and Savage plays the comic foil/relief.

Due to the nature and methods of MythBusters, several injuries, mishaps and close calls have happened over the course of the show. Some include:

* Adam's lower lip was sucked into and cut by a running vacuum cleaner motor as he was examining the device for the "Homemade Hovercraft" myth. He later explained in the "MythBusters Revealed" special that he had wanted to see if the vacuum motor would pull on his lip, but had not thought about the rapidly spinning impeller within.
* Adam lost some hair during an explosion test in the "Cell Phones and Gas Stations" myth, which invoked one of his more famous quotes: "Am I missing... an eyebrow?", used in subsequent opening scenes for the show.
* Jamie almost passed out during the "Stinky Car" myth. After sitting in a truck container for two months with two dead pigs inside it, the car had accumulated high levels of ammonia that almost overwhelmed Jamie when he went inside to release the brakes.
* During the "Penny Drop" test, Jamie modified a pneumatic staple gun to shoot a penny at its terminal velocity. The gun accidentally discharged while upside-down and shot out one of the shop's fluorescent lights, forcing a temporary evacuation due to the mercury vapor from the lights.
* Adam and Christine both suffered mild burns in the "Exploding Jawbreaker" experiment. Christine was hit the most; the hot liquid core of the jawbreaker splattered on parts of her face and neck. Adam was later quoted as saying that the molten candy, at around 250 degrees Fahrenheit, felt "...like napalm."
* Kari, Adam, and Tory slightly hurt themselves in the episode "Killer Brace Position," in which they volunteered to be seated in a set simulating aircraft crashing. They were dropped from 5 feet (1.5 m) by a crane, sitting in aircraft seats which were tilted 30 degrees facing down. They all felt that the brace position was stopping their heads and necks suffering major damage, but still they hit their legs against the seat next to them. Kari received a minor scar on her leg from the test.
* In "Hair Cream Decapitation", a mockup jet being pressurized for the test explosively decompressed mere seconds after Adam changed his mind about walking past the point of failure.
* In testing the "Confederate Rocket" myth, Adam and Jamie seriously underestimated their homemade rocket's power and decided to test it indoors, resulting in Jamie almost getting caught in the explosion and catching several objects on fire, including Adam's hovercraft. The rest of the shop was affected by the massive amount of (possibly toxic) smoke caused by this incident, forcing a temporary evacuation. The violence of the event also caused narrator Robert Lee to speak a profanity for the first time in the series.
* In the "Bottle Rocket" myth, a bottle rocket made of a 5-gallon water jug and lifting a 2kg load goes higher than expected, forcing the Build Team and camera crew to run for safety to avoid being hit by the falling weight.
* While testing if a perfect mixture of hydrogen and oxygen can blow open a can of crisps and keep the contents intact, the first attempt causes a much larger than anticipated explosion; Jamie turns to Adam "I thought you said we didn't need ear defenders?"

* "I reject your reality and substitute my own." – Adam Savage
* "Jamie wants big boom!"– Jamie Hyneman

Hyneman and Savage appeared on Good Morning America on November 8, 2004.

Although no MythBusters appeared on the program, a 2005 episode of Good Eats titled "Myth Smashers" tested cooking-related myths in a MythBusters-like fashion. As portrayed on the episode, host Alton Brown wanted to use the term "Culinary MythBusters" - but his lawyer would not allow it because of trademark infringement. (Later in the episode, he called a myth "busted" anyway before stopping himself.)

Hyneman and Savage appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman on May 23, 2005. The team tested whether a cluster of helium party balloons could lift an adult person (a repeat of the "Carried Away" myth). Actor Paul Newman was lifted up by more than 5000 balloons. However, Dave's promised interview with them did not occur on that show. Kari Byron was interviewed on The Late Show, on January 16, 2006.

G4's X-Play also had a spoof of the MythBusters, dubbed "MythCrackers", first airing on August 22, 2005. In the skit two men attempt to solve various video game myths, such as putting large arrows on the ground for a car to drive over to make it go faster, eating mushrooms to make you giant sized, barrels that explode when you shoot them, and removing the memory card while the game is saving.

The cover feature of the winter 2005 issue of Skeptic spotlighted Hyneman and Savage.

Hyneman and Savage appeared in a segment at the 2006 TV Week Logie Awards, where they attempted to solve the myth of whether or not the atmospheric pressure at the Logies caused guests' breasts to increase in size. This segment used footage from the "Exploding Implants" myth, with a new voice-over, intro, and ending.

Lego minifigure representations of Hyneman and Savage frequently appear in strips of the online comic strip, Irregular Webcomic!, where they test strange myths. For example, they confirmed that "Death waits for no man".

MythBusters is broadcast in several countries, primarily on each country's edition of the Discovery Channel. In some countries, the English speech is either subtitled in the relevant language, or the narrator is dubbed. In the UK, Rufus Hound narrates the BBC Two version of MythBusters, while Robin Banks narrates the Discovery Channel's version. Excerpts of the show are also shown as part of the Beyond Television-produced Beyond Tomorrow.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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