Episode 100: MacGyver Special

Air Date: February 20, 2008

A person can blow a hole in a wall with elemental sodium and water.


The Mythbusters placed sodium in a gel capsule, placed it in a bottle full of warm water, and put the bottle against a cinder block wall. However, the explosion from one gram of sodium was not powerful enough to damage the wall, and one hundred grams of sodium was also not enough. The Mythbusters then used the more reactive potassium, but still failed to cause any damage. The Mythbusters finally resorted to using C4 explosive to demolish the wall.

A person can make a working two-seater ultralight plane out of makeshift materials.


Taking footage from the show, the Build Team built an ultralight plane out of bamboo, duct tape, trash bags, and a cement mixer engine. The show depicted the plane MacGyver built as not being powerful enough to achieve flight on its own, but being able to sustain powered flight after taxiing off of a cliff. With their plane complete, the Build Team added remote controls and took the plane to a quarry that had flat, level ground and a 150 foot cliff. While they demonstrated that the plane’s engine had enough power to move the plane, it wasn’t enough to sustain flight and the plane plummeted straight to the ground.

In the following scenarios, Adam and Jamie decided to test their skills. Rather than testing the plausibility of these events, they were comparing their own ingenuity to MacGyver’s.

Pick a lock using light bulb filaments.


While the show had MacGyver picking the lock in just 52 seconds, it took the MythBusters a little over 50 minutes to pick the lock.

Develop film with ordinary household chemicals like ammonia and orange juice.


Both Adam and Jamie were placed in a room that had multiple household chemicals that included the necessary ones to develop photos. While Adam did have some experience in developing photos and could remember the necessary ingredients, he could not remember the exact process and the MythBusters were unable to develop the photos within the given time limit.

Create a makeshift magnetic compass.


Adam and Jamie built a makeshift electromagnet by wrapping wire around a metal screw and connecting it to some batteries. They then used the electromagnet to magnetize a paper clip, put the paper clip in a cork, and floated the cork in a cup of water to create a compass. While it wasn’t perfect, it was good enough to direct the MythBusters to their next objective.

Create a makeshift device that can go 100 feet into the air and attract the attention of a passing helicopter.


Using typical camping gear, the MythBusters were left to create rescue signal. Tory and Grant originally intended for Adam and Jamie to build a potato cannon and left the requisite materials, but the MythBusters had different ideas. They used a tarp, PVC pipe, and a rope to create a large kite and were able to get it to fly at a height of 100 feet just as the helicopter passed by.


  1. Sylvia Wann says:

    My question deals with the exploding hammer episode you ran.
    Years ago, while working with my father in his shop, he hit a nail which pulvarized upon impact. He stated that the nail was crystalized causing it to fail.
    Would one (or both) of the hammers disintegrated had thay been in the state of crystalization at the time of impact?

  2. Todd says:

    Anyone who is a die-hard fan of MacGyver or t.v. trivia knows that the technical advisors cut out “critical” ingredients from the more dangerous macgyverisms.

    Understanding that the show is about the myths of MacGyver, I have to wonder if they could have found the “secret ingredient” to test the plausibility.

    And the photo developing macgyverism still deserves a plausible.

    • MSpears says:

      Not only is it plausible, it’s CONFIRMED. Adam just couldn’t remember the correct order of steps.

  3. Paul Malley says:

    Ultralight made out of junk.

    It jogged the memory back to the time when I used to read books about Pommy Heroics against the Nazi Swine.

    There was a POW camp I think it was Colditz Castle.

    Anyway the Pommy POWs built a glider up in the roof spaces out of bunk boards and bed sheets..

    They used a bathtub filled with concrete and a rope and pulley system as a launching catapult.

    The object of the excercise was to clear the castle curtain wall and land in a nearby field.

    I think they did it.

  4. John Wheatcroft says:

    We once did an explosive experiment at Boarding School, involving, if my memory serves me correctly:

    1. An alloy of Potassium and Sodium
    melted into asmall glass tube and
    sealed with wax.

    2. Carbon Tetrachloride (Carpet Cleaner)

    When the small glass tubes, filled with the NA and K alloy have carbon Tetrachloride CCL4 added and are thrown at a wall, preferably one that needs removing. These device explode quite loudly. I remember watching these being made by my old chemistry master.

    Would Mythbusters like to try it ?

  5. John Wheatcroft says:

    Could a P.C be made to run more efficiently and faster for a given workload, by building it inside the freezer compartment of a refrigerator.
    How much heat would be eliminated from the processor ?

    • MSpears says:

      The refrigerator would not increase the speed of the processor. It would make it safer to overclock the processor (forcing it to run at speeds higher than it was rated for) by keeping it cool.

      Simple explanation: Extreme heat can kill a processor. The more you overclock it, the hotter it gets. Keeping the processor cool by putting the computer in a refrigerator would help. However, you’re still shortening the life expectancy of the processor.

  6. Avinash Chandrashekar says:

    I wonder how failing to do a task because of a lack of expertise justifies labelling it “fail”. I must admit that I haven’t seen the episode though, and I have no idea about the truth value, but from what I hear, the experimenter had no idea about how to perform the experiment

  7. crystal says:

    That was one of the best episodes i have ever seen. I have a myth to try and i do not know how to get it on the website. The myth is: “An ice skater can fall through ice by spinning in a circle fast and long enough to drill a hole in the ice.” Thank you, whoever gets it to the site.:D LONG LIVE THE MYTHBUSTERS!!!! ADAM AND JAMIE RULE!!!!!

  8. alphageminie says:

    Hello sir,

    ive enjoyed the macgyver special so much and would really like to say good job to the mythbusters team, now for the part where jaime and adam were tested on 4 myths, they were not testing the 4 myths if it was plausible or not. they were testing jaime and adam if they are as ingenuious as macgyver, its a pass or fail on the second test as if you do it improperly, you wont be able to develop the film.

    thanks and more power

    ” In the following scenarios, Adam and Jamie decided to test their skills. Rather than testing the plausibility of these events, they were comparing their own ingenuity to MacGyver’s.”

  9. joseph says:

    Hey Mythbusters and crew here’s an interesting myth that I’m not willing to test myself..Cellphones and gas stations, Curious? Here it is, Myth has it that if you are to put a cellphone to use while filling up at a gas station static currents can ignite the fumes and BOOM! So anyways thought it be interesting as well as awsome to watch!

    • Matthew says:

      It is already tested in season 2

      • Hunter says:

        Yup. My favorite episode.

  10. joseph says:

    Hey Mythbusters! Im huge fan of your television show, verry interesting and great to watch with family friends and never a dull episode, unless of course the station plays re-runs..But heres the myth I wanted to test..If you get struck by lighting your more bound to get struck a second time then anybody else who has never been stuck..Now try putting THAT to the test! ;)

  11. Muffenme says:

    My question is how hp would had been needed to fly the homemade glider and is it possable to attach such an engine like MacGyver. Another myth i to seen done is to see if a Swiss Army Knife can stop a bullette and would it save your life?

  12. robert says:

    just watched your show and i’m so pissed,alot of people try to keep old cars from the junk yard spending hours to restore them.but you 2 goofs have no regards for anything like a 67 chev.I hope all car collectors and restorers stop watching you 2 nerds destroy something that others would love to preserve.I find it funny that the discovery channel would air a show that destroys antiques.I’m sure that our car club isn’t the only one that will be turning off your tv show.You 2 are really sad.

  13. Andrew says:

    exellent show guys. This is a response to robert… Hey its only a chevey! Besides you still took the time to watch the show and thats ratings. As long as they don’t destroy a vintage couger I don’t care. Keep it up Jamie and Adam, and just to ask why did Scotty leave the show. cause DAM that girl looks good!!!! And Canada loves all of you . Cheers!!!!

    • Hunter says:

      I agree. Rob up there was really offensive.

  14. Robert Bogden says:

    Proposal for a re-test of the sodium+water explosion test:

    There was a myth at University of Utah in our inorganic chemistry class that putting 5 grams of pure sodium into a toilet and flushing would blow up the toilet and damage the pipe in the floor!

    I never knew anyone who actually tried it. If it does not blow up the toilet, I’ll bet huge bucks that Cesium into a toilet bowl of water would be an EPIC explosion! Be very very careful! This would need a robotic delivery, because a very small amount of cesium will react violently with water. I don’t think you would have time to flush the toilet (remote control flusher).

    Rock on Adam & Jamie!

    PS- Cs is a member of the alkali metal group that should be kept under a mineral oil or in a noble gas environment to prevent humidity in the air from reacting.

  15. mathew says:

    my friend and i when whe were in grade 4,i hearde that a boy got killed by mixing milk ande clorine,should i try it myself? (i was alwais too scared too do it)

    ps i really love youre show but i live in southe africa so i cant blow up my dads car withe you guy’s

  16. ricardo jay almira says:

    can a carrot be deadly when fired in a high velocity

  17. Reelix says:


    Milk + Chlorine = Dangerous – DO NOT TRY IT!!!

    P.S: I also live in SA :)

  18. neil a bueno says:

    that episode where the mythbusters explauded and launched a home water heating tank was really awesome!

  19. neia sni says:

    the myth is that is you fire a bullet into the a glass tv(not plasma or LCD) it will penetrate the vacuum flask and let air in, it will let it in such high velocity that the quick change in pressure will cause an explosion

  20. Damien says:

    I watched a movie to day called ‘Wanted’ an it is about people curving a bullet. An i was wondering if you could test it to see if it is possible?

  21. Jules says:

    Regarding the McGyver special: thye’re so clever, it drives me crazy when they miss some obvious thing… like when they did the steam cannon and didn’t figure out that they needed to focus on building up pressure (instead of on instantaneous steam generation) until late in the game.

    In this case, they totally dropped the ball with the metal sodium in water. That myth is NOT busted. See, each time they tried it, they were using A. – a too small bottle, and B. – a bottle with far too much air. In fact, the second time, it was mostly air. Air compresses a LOT, being a gas. Explosives generate more force the more the rapid expansion of heat/gas is restricted. Air does not restrict. Simply by filling a larger bottle completely full of water, they could have dramatically multiplied the amount of force from the explosion. Would it have been enough to blow a hole in the wall? Maybe not, but it would have been a lot closer than they came.

    Ironically, I know this fact from another show on Discover Channel: Future Weapons. They did a segment on breaching walls using a very small strip of explosives and a special water filled ring that directed the force against the wall, trapping and amplifying the force.

    • MSpears says:

      They wanted to do what Macgyver did. They tried to match what they saw in the show. It didn’t work, obviously, so the myth is STILL busted.

  22. ricardo jay almira response says:

    ricardo jay almira, in my exp. most fruits and vegies are almost always fatal when fired in high velocity.

  23. Mike says:

    To Paul Malley RE: Ultralight made out of junk.
    The Poms did build that plane in the attic of Colditz Castle with the help of books on Aerodynamics from the prison library no less. They never got to launch it as the blimmin’ war went and ended. The Prison CO was astounded when shown a fully built glider in the roof space. A few years ago a documentary team remade the thing and it flew really well.

  24. C. A. Bodor says:

    sodium in a gel capsul will not destroy a wall. Sudium in a gel capsul placed into the gastank of a car may cause the tank to explode, esp;ecially if the tank contains some water. Water is heavier than gasolone; so, place some lead pellotes into the gel capsul along with the sudium, place some water into the tank, annd when the gel cap disolves in the water, the sodium will react with the water creating fire resulting in an exploding gas tank and car. The newer cars have a system where the tank is pressurized every so often; so, there is a question whether this will be more effective with the older models or the newers. Could this technique have been used with the 747 that exploded after leaving NY? Aircraft fuel tanks also have water vapor accumulations over time; and a considera\ble amout of water can collect at the bottom of the tanks where a sodium-water reaction could couse a dramatic explosion. Supposedly the MAFIA used sodium in car gas tanks to assasinate their rivals.

  25. sven says:

    Great show, but the ultralight was disappointing.

    The cliff wasnt a sheer drop, it was getting lift but when it did, there wasnt any room for the rudder to stabalise and even out (due to it being a gradient drop)

    i think had it been a sheer drop like it should have been, it would have at least gotten much farther if not flown

  26. ChuckLez says:

    “Could a P.C be made to run more efficiently and faster for a given workload, by building it inside the freezer compartment of a refrigerator.
    How much heat would be eliminated from the processor ?”

    If you can keep the components completely dry, it will run faster but considering you are using more power from a freezer, it would technically not be efficient. Going off an outdoor LAN I was a part of (and the temperature was dipping down to about 55-60F), the CPU got down to 20C with a decent cooler, eliminating quite a bit so I would imagine a freezer would do alot better (As long as there is a heatsink on it. Otherwise I would imagine the CPU would still burn up.

  27. joe B says:

    Here’s a good myth to bust. can a snowboarder, a snowmobiler, or a skier outrun an avalanche? to do it find one of those mountains with controlled avalanche explosions (telluride, etc.), build a remote controlled snowboarding rig, skier rig, and a snowmobiler rig. hike up a mountain, set them all from a starting line, make mountain go boom boom, and start them off.

  28. Max says:

    about running a PC in a freezer. it won’t run more efficient, it wont run faster, as the PC’s have an internal clock generator to make them run at a certian frequency (speed) HOWEVER lower temperatures mean lower CPU temperatures, making thermal radiation and electro-radiation inside the processors lower, meaning you can run them at higher clock speeds without instability (but you also have to raise the voltage to get those higher frequencies)

    so no, putting a PC in a freezer won’t make it run faster, but if you OVERCLOCK the PC (make it run at a higher frequency than default) it will run faster. it will require more electricity to power the chip stably, which will output more heat, and the heat itself may cause instability, so you have to lower the temperatures.

    extreme overclockers will use liquid nitrogen, or even liquid helium to achieve insane CPU frequencies.

  29. Dan says:

    They did not mark the photo developing with househould chemicals as a failed experiment. They acknowledge that the needed items to develope photos were present, but stated that they were testing their own ingenuity against that of MacGyver and THEY failed.

  30. SuperSparky says:

    The ultralight needs re-testing. The so-called “genius” Kari Byron (you know the one who doesn’t have an engineering degree, but an ART degree) insisted on changing the design and added extra weight to the craft by her totally unnecessary “airfoil” shape. Loose cloth is sufficient to make its own airfoil by its angle of attack. The extra weight of the extra material of more wire and cloth brought that plane down. If she would have just stuck with the design, that plane would have, at the minimum, glided much farther.

    Ever see a hang-glider, or an ultra-light? It’s just cloth. The cloth on them forms its own natural airfoil shape due to its angle of attack of the wind and gravity.

    Kari Byron needs to stick to being eye candy and let the engineers do the thinking, or get engineering degree herself. She embarrasses herself every time she opens her mouth. Grant knows about electronics engineering as he’s an MIT graduate. Tori is great with building things as his first job was a set builder etc, and knows about structural strengths and weaknesses. Kari knows how to paint and sculpt; oh yay (and wear freaky outfits with retro umbrellas).

  31. Bertie the Bunyip says:

    Someone with only a modicum of knowhow and a decent engine could make an ultralight, no prob. Its been done many times.
    As for the Allied POWs making a glider in the attic of their prison camp, this is absolutely true. It was Colditz Castle and the airplane was called the Colditz Cock. It was a two seater based on the glider technology of the 1930s and it was completed but did not fly. An as-close-as-possible replica was built about ten years ago in the UK and was flown succesfully. It performed quite well in fact.

  32. Doug says:

    I did not see them check the CG, I think it would have flown, looked nose heavy to me

  33. jerry says:

    i am disapointed with ultralight. with all shows you ramp it up. why not the motor? and tweek it up a bit. it had no power to give it achance.

    • MSpears says:

      They would have to repair it first, before they could use a bigger motor. COULD it have flown? Yes, actually. In fact you could tell it was TRYING, but didn’t have enough speed.

  34. grandpa says:

    you can magnatize=demagnatize metals by different methods. an example take a screw driver align it with the earths poles and sharply hit it with a hammer. take a small piece of metal a needle maybe rub it fast against a magnet and float it on water.

  35. John Mumaw says:

    Myth or Fact: Wearing a white shirt will keep you cooler than a black shirt on a hot sunny day. The controversy seems to center on two facts. White reflects heat from the sun but does not release heat from the body as black does. So in a soccer practice, would I be more comfortable wearing black or white tee shirt. I once met a construction worker who was wearing a sweat shirt ( I forget the color) in the middle of summer. He said he was very hot until he got a good sweat going but was then cool the rest of the day.

  36. someone says:

    you probs need a more reactive group 1 metal element to blow up the wall…?

  37. sarah says:

    i recon the bamboo plan can fly if it had a bigger battery and a bigger blade and not a sandy sort of hill thing i know
    this comment was a year late Macgyver put Sodium pills only plus it was a crumbled wall

  38. Mike says:

    The kite would have flown much better if they had put a bow string on it.

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