MythBusters Episode 118: YouTube Special

Air Date: April 29, 2009

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If the heads of 30,000 matches are gathered together and ignited, they will create a large fireball.


Adam and Jamie started with 30,000 paper safety matches and cut the heads off, collecting them in a 1-US-gallon (3.8 L) bucket. When these were ignited with a slow-burning fuse, they generated a fireball approximately 10 feet (3 m) high, confirming the myth. However, the person who submitted it had also asked what would happen if 1,000,000 heads were used, so the entire crew spent a day cutting off match heads to fill a 44-US-gallon (170 L) drum. These were then ignited to create an intensely bright, 50-foot (15 m) fireball. Finally, Adam and Jamie built an improvised cannon out of a K-size argon cylinder and loaded it with 60,000 match heads, using a 6-pound (2.7 kg) bowling ball as the projectile. They aimed it at a rack of bowling pins and set it off, but the ball never hit the pins; instead, it skipped off the ground, sailed over them, and then flew 1,500 feet (460 m) uphill. Adam commented afterward that the cannon might have propelled the ball some 3,000 feet (910 m) on level ground.

A 7-foot diameter ball built from 5 million Lego bricks can be easily pushed off the top of a hill, roll down, and bounce off a parked car without doing any damage.


Grant, Tory, and Kari investigated this myth in three parts: the number of bricks needed for a 7-foot (2 m) diameter ball, whether its weight would make it hard to push around, and whether it would damage a car after rolling downhill. They managed to collect half a million bricks, and calculated that a ball consisting of 5 million bricks would weigh 10 tonnes (22,000 lb), much too heavy for people to push unassisted. After borrowing another half a million bricks from a private collector, the Build Team brought in every available crew member to put together a 7-foot ball weighing 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg). Lastly, they found a road on which to roll the ball safely, set up an alley made of construction barricades, put a car at the bottom, and let the ball go; however, it crumbled into pieces long before reaching the car. All three parts of the myth were declared busted, and the Build Team conjectured that the people in the video may have used a large, hollow sphere as the core of their Lego ball, and glued the pieces to it. This would have made the Lego sphere far easier to push and far less likely to break up or damage a car on impact.

A car tire can be spun so fast that friction with the ground will cause it to not only smoke, but actually catch fire.


Adam and Jamie found a high-performance car and set it up to run in place, with only one tire spinning in contact with the ground. In the first test, Jamie revved the engine to top speed, causing the tire to emit thick smoke and eventually burst. No flames were observed at the time; however, after a lunch break, they discovered that some of the rubber particles had smoldered and built up enough heat to ignite. Believing that a spark might be needed to get the tire to burn, Adam set up an angle grinder and turned it on as Jamie stepped on the gas pedal for the second test. The tire did not blow out or burn this time, so for the third test, Adam hooked up a container to leak gasoline onto the tire as it spun and the grinder threw sparks. Again there was no fire, and Jamie theorized that the air turbulence caused by the spinning tire was preventing the gasoline from igniting. With no flames generated during any test, Adam and Jamie declared the myth busted.

A person can make a working speaker out of a paper plate, tin foil, a penny, and a minijack.


Tory built the homemade speakers according to the myth’s specifications and created his own surround sound setup, but when he turned on the music, the speakers didn’t work. Thinking that there might not be enough electricity to power all the speakers at once, Tory used only a single speaker but failed to get any sound again. The homemade speakers clearly did not work, and Tory also pointed out that the claim that these homemade speakers cost less than one dollar each was not true. A single minijack alone costs around ten dollars, and Tory’s entire homemade surround sound set cost one hundred fifty dollars to build.

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  1. Chris Taylor:

    Kyle Bush on 6-6-09 at tennese race track during his burnout caught his tires on fire. There is video of it on it is in his nation wide car.

    June 7, 2009 at 5:14 PM
  2. Assunta:

    You can make a paper “speaker” using an old fashioned turntable and a vinyl LP. Just make a cone out of paper, stick a needle at the pointy end and stick the other end of the needle on the turning vinyl record…hehehe….instant sound. Of course its not the same as an electric speaker Tory was trying to create.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:36 PM
  3. Luke:

    I haven’t seen the episode, but I doubt when doing the tire myth they factored in having the axle and brakes red hot.

    June 19, 2009 at 2:05 AM
  4. Jeannie:

    I still think that the Lego ball should be confirmed. I don’t think the mythbuster ball was very well put together. In the remains shown there were a lot of blocks of bricks that were formed into individual blocks. Anyone who plays with Lego, (guilty–I had FOUR children!! lol) knows that a structure is always stronger when the bricks are interlocked properly. I think the ball may very well stay together if every brick was assembled in this way. Would love to see you try that again!!

    June 30, 2009 at 12:09 AM
  5. Barnaby:

    The paper plate speaker might work if you cut a slit from the out side of the plate to the centre in the foil as this will in effect create one turn. Place the positive and negative wire each side of the slit in the foil. Instead of using an ipod or personal mp3 player which may only produce 100mw of power use a hi-fi which is used to drive into a 4 or 8ohm load at 50 – 100 watts of power.

    July 5, 2009 at 10:57 AM
  6. Tai Nguyen:

    @Jeannie – but the 5 million bricks portion and “rollable” portion are still easily Busted, and the fact that a 3,000 lb would probably have done at least SOME damage to a parked car, shows that this video was clearly faked to some degree.

    August 8, 2009 at 12:45 AM
  7. Troy Butler:

    I was watching tonights episode where they were trying to get a tire to ignite while spinning. We used to do it all the time but we used old french fry grease to do our burn outs in, only some tires would produce the flames. I think i had bias tires on my sand rail and the flames would go all the way around maybe try those two things and see if it will work, i am pretty sure it will.

    August 13, 2009 at 2:23 AM
  8. SuperSparky:

    For the Lego episode, they should have used a structural engineer instead of a Lego artist. The structural engineer would have clearly said the method of grouping the blocks into larger blocks will have weakened it.

    The more you can spread out a load with smaller interconnections, the stronger it will be. The Lego design isn’t designed for large loads, so if you use a lot of interconnections, then you increase its collective strength.

    The method the artist used was only for building large Lego displays designing for just sitting there. It was an efficient method, but it was a very poor method for strength.

    August 14, 2009 at 1:11 PM
  9. Michael Bradford:

    In regards to the burnouts that set a tyre on fire. You guys might want to take a look at the videos called “Brute Horsepower” which are based on the Summernats car festival that occurs in the ACT, Canberra every year. There is one for every year and they have been having this event for over 20 years now and guarenteed there is always some clown that manages to set his car on fire during the Burnout competition. This myth can be confirmed so easily by watching one of these vids. All you need is lots of horsepower (like around 400 +) and some old steel belted tyres and they’ll light up pretty easily. If you still have trouble then ask an Aussie Car hoon, feed him a dozen beers and he’ll do it for free.

    Just my 20 cents worth from an ex-car hoon in the land down under.


    August 15, 2009 at 5:24 AM
  10. Martinus Korst:

    Hey guys. Saw you attempting to set the tyre on fire. Problem as I see it you didn’t have enough weight on the wheel. At our Hot Rod Summernats in Canberra (Australia) a few years ago in the burnout comp one guy did it easily without meaning to. The safety marshalls had to extinguish it. With the car spinning in circles the weight transfer would have been huge. Like to see you try it mate.

    August 15, 2009 at 5:39 AM
  11. Phill Kelly:

    Many car tyres catch fire at many burnout competitions around the globe. Summernats (Summer Nationals) is one of the biggest car gatherings in Australia and has many cars over a 1000hp that catch tyres on fire. I Know this is is Plausible.

    August 15, 2009 at 6:00 AM
  12. Phill Kelly:

    Paper plate speakers with a penny in the centre just isnt going to work. The penny creates a short on the end of the cable. A normal speaker has a coil with impedance(8 ohms as Kari mentioned)put a short in any circuit and the impedence becomes 0 ohms.

    August 15, 2009 at 6:06 AM
  13. Andy:

    car tire can be spun so fast that it will catch fire.. have done it.. but it all depends on the kind of tire you use.. some do some don’t have done this more then once. also need the tire to have still wireing..
    get cheep tire and you’ll see..

    September 2, 2009 at 4:12 PM
  14. Ells:

    You know… I think the “Myth Busters” have been busted!! Many times I’ve watched the show and half of the myths they feature are common sense things. The show could be good if they got somethings right. Perhaps their research should be more extensive.

    September 3, 2009 at 7:17 PM
  15. Dragonfyre:

    To those who have been arguing about the Lego Ball…sure, setting it into several thousand larger bricks would have weakened the structure, but that still leaves the myth busted regardless: the claim of 5 million bricks is highly improbable, what they had was too heavy to easily move around, and something that large would probably damage the car to some extent.

    September 14, 2009 at 2:39 PM
  16. Glenn:

    I have watched friends light their tyres up as a teeneager. I did ask how they where doing it and got told to get a cheap set of steel belted tyres and, if i wanted to light up really good, to soak the tyres in fuel. When the tread gets down to the steel it wall spark on the road base and ingite. I never tried it but was also told to make sure there was a fire extinguiser handy if trying.

    September 27, 2009 at 12:36 AM
  17. Molly:

    Wow, you guys sure are smart. My ideal paper speaker is a cone and a strong voice shouting into one end. I like how almost everyone argues with what the Mythbusters say. If you have something to say, and think their answer was wrong, prove it yourself!

    September 28, 2009 at 5:27 PM
  18. zombie:

    lookup blown hr supernats [email protected] creek this will show both tires catching fire its not that hard to do.

    September 29, 2009 at 1:27 AM
  19. Jessica:

    hey all, some please tell what type of “high Proformance” car was used for this tire igniting. large debate going on as i write

    November 12, 2009 at 8:49 PM
  20. HR:

    Again the show is BUSTED, as so many have said above the big block idea was faster but ask any four year old about it and he would tell you about the weak areas it would create!

    The three thing to make fire, OXYGEN, lets stop there; keep the car in one spot so you have control and the tire smoke smothers the possibility of a fire? There was lots of OXYGEN? then what the hell was Jamie complaining about? Check out the above videos and give grandma back her car!

    As for the match heads if you really wanted to see them go up you needed to punch a small hole in the bottom of the barrel, run your fuse through it and light them from the bottom; FLAMES burn up!

    January 7, 2010 at 11:38 PM
  21. Nate:

    They were testing the myth that a cars tire can light only from friction with the road. Tires obviously burn of you introduce the heat from the brakes but that wasnt the myth.

    January 14, 2010 at 5:05 PM
  22. Adam:

    Judging from the televised footage you guys did not glue your ball or interlock the pieces. The other thing I noticed watching the Youtube video is that the ball was probably hollow. I base this theory on the sound the ball is making rolling down the hill. A hollow ball would definitely be easier to roll and do less (although probably some damage to a car) while also being less likely to break apart due to the reduced weight crashing into the earth which would impart the same force back upon the ball each time it smashed. Granted, super glue or its competitors are not as strong as people think I would say that gluing would definitely add stability to the overall structure. I would greatly like to see you revisit this “myth”.

    January 20, 2010 at 4:08 AM
  23. Adam:

    HR, the problem with lots of oxygen when you’re trying to start a fire is that the oxygen can cool the fuel to the fire if it is moving to quickly or if there is just way too much of it. In this case it wasn’t a case of too much but the fact that the turbulence of the tire cutting through the air was blowing over the fuel (ie: the rubber of the tire and the later added gasoline) and simply making the environment too cold to ignite. Keep in mind that the ignition point of rubber is a lot higher than most typical fuels used to create fire. In this respect I’d say they were right to BUST that myth.

    January 20, 2010 at 4:14 AM
  24. Adam:

    Dragonfyre, if you watch the Youtube video closely, the guy at the beginning clearly states that it took about 1 million bricks. Even though the very end of the video does say 5 million in bright font, I would be more willing to believe the guy speaking in the video. He most likely would have been involved in the construction and also, it’s easier to remember something like that when it’s fresh in your mind. Keep in mind that the video may have been put together awhile after the film was shot.

    January 20, 2010 at 4:22 AM
  25. Dray:

    HR, no wonder you stopped at oxygen, it takes four things to make fire, O2, heat, fuel, and an ignition source.

    January 27, 2010 at 10:21 PM
  26. yankyourchain:

    Link to tire burnout flame:
    cause unknown, but seems unintended

    February 24, 2010 at 3:29 PM
  27. c.jones:

    you can use a playing card as a throwing star ihope you pick mine

    March 20, 2010 at 8:25 PM
  28. Tina:

    about the legos. C’mon, check out the youtube video, IT’S ALL A LIE!!!! Seriously, the middle of the day and not a single car wants to drive down that obviously large street in the middle of San Fransisco? People, use common sense and see the facts that are there. And yes, like Adam pointed out above, there are 2 different totals of the amount of legos, and the fact of the noise. Use your heads, don’t be so stinking gullible over something so OBVIOUSLY fake, that is featured on, of all places, Youtube!!!!

    April 19, 2010 at 3:15 PM
  29. dazza:

    omg burnout fires happen all the time in australian burntout comps the reason why they couldnt do it cuz the cars that do it in aus are full on drag cars with 1000+hp and run on methanol add to the fact that the exhaust dont usually run past the diff so extra methanol runs through the exhaust and gets heated

    April 20, 2010 at 6:25 AM

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