Episode 11: Sinking Titanic, Goldfish Memory, Trombone Explosion

Air Date: January 25, 2004

A goldfish’s memory lasts only three seconds.


Jamie trained his goldfish to recognize color patterns and complete an obstacle course under water. They remembered what Jamie had taught them over a month later and easily completed the same course without Jamie’s prompting.

A trombonist had put a firecracker into his mute, and at the final note of the 1812 Overture, launched the mute, striking the conductor and knocking him back into the audience. In addition, the bell of the trombone was blown wide open and the slide was launched.


Using a firecracker, the mute hit the conductor (Buster), but did not knock him over. When the equivalent of six model rocket engines were used, he fell forwards after being hit. When even more was used, the trombone was practically destroyed, but the bell still did not peel back, nor did the slide launch. Being completely unable to duplicate even the first part of the myth, the rest could not have followed.

(This myth was revisited in episode 75 and it was re-busted.)

A sinking ship creates enough suction to pull you under, if you’re too close, as was rumored to occur when the RMS Titanic sank.


Though using a small ship, neither Adam nor Jamie were sucked under when it sank, even when they were riding directly on top of it.

*This result has been debated because the myth was not tested at full scale.


  1. Andrew C. says:

    Sinking vessels cannot drag a man under, since the displacement of the vessel sinking is like droppping a large solid chunk of iron. Escaping gases, though, from compartments crushing under pressure can release enough air to reduce bouancy and cause a sustained subsurface experience.

    • Dave schaaf says:

      That’s absolutely right. The specific gravity of the water is radically changed because of all the air in it. It becomes less dense than a human being.

  2. Alex Caron says:

    Sink a canoe and you wouldn’t be brought down under.

    I’ve had to sink a barge which capsized. I shot the hull several times with a gun, until it sank. A poor duck decided to land on the water close to the sinking barge. The duck got sucked under, and I never saw him after that.

    • Ray says:

      You wasted a perfectly good duck.

  3. Kev D says:

    Going back once again to the myth sinking ship. I think its all down to the size of vessel and the positioning of the ill fated sailor, it seems to me that anyone stood on deck would be ok ,but stand near a doorway or hatch cover of any ship with large cargo holds surely the ingress of a large amount of water would infact suck you down or into its interior never to be seen again.

  4. trombone cannon says:

    while the myth was busted, i had the thought that you did not have the trombonests end of the trombone blocked as if it would have been. purhaps this would change the result( the slide not mooveng)
    also your poor volenteer does not have reflexes which the conductor would most definately had( causing him to react at being hit by the propeled ‘mute’. please reply if you think any of this sounds ‘plausable’!!! from CRYSTIN, big fan!!!

  5. paul malley says:

    Your swimming pool experiment with the weights proved the effect.
    The boat experiment didn’t work as the boat did not sink fast enough.
    1) Do the swimming pool experiment again but use a pallett size deck, as the balast weight is increased so your man will get
    dragged deeper. The system is that of a pison pump and the balast weight is the HP
    2) Fill the boat with concrete and try again.

  6. Walied T says:

    I have to agree with comment 4. If the mouth piece was blocked, it would prob cause back pressure resulting in the slide flying off. Also the conductor would react, firstly because off fright, then flight as the mute is propelled towards him. So not that the mute hit backwards, rather the conductor’s reaction causing him to fall back????
    What might you think??? Great show guys!!

  7. Brandon C. says:

    hey i got a science fair project over the smartness of goldfish and i would like to know if about 3 or 4 gold fish will make it throgh 2 screens with a hole at the top of one the screens and a hole at the bottem of the screen?

  8. Andy says:

    I think the density of the water being reduced due to bubbles is more probable. I have heard that a gas blow out under a floating storage and offloading ship used in the LNG gas fields can reduce the density of the water to the point the ship sinks instantly with no chance of escape. I would like to see Jamie try to stay afloat in a large diving chamber as they release a huge amount of gas from below him for a period of 30 seconds. I think you know the chambers im on about, they are about 100ft tall but narrow.

  9. Andrea says:

    My son would feed goldfish to his pirhana. Even after the first bite (that would often remove a sizable chuck of skull and other body parts) the goldfish “seemed to forget” they had been bitten or not realize the source of their injury as the continued to casually paddle around the tank unphased
    by the injury. They did not strike me as being able to make the most basic connections in matters of survival, learn any skills based on experience, or retain information for any longer than 3 seconds. Therefore, I really enjoyed seeing Jamie‚Äôs fish run the maze for food and proved that a goldfish is not just a pretty face framed with fins. Adam seem to get the same “dumb cluck” types my son used for feeder fish – it was comical watching him struggle with dismay in teaching his school of fish to do anything.

  10. ashley says:

    i was woundering will a goldfish turn white if kept in the dark? i am doing this for a science project and i have looked online and there is so many differnt oppions and none of them have what im looking for and i just wounderd if you guys could help me out. =)


  11. Zee says:

    yeah, it’ll turn white but I don’t know how long it would take. About half of my 9 goldfish have changed colors since I first got them. The ones that turn the most are yellowish copper or solid orange that are in the feeder tanks. The red and white ones or “fancy” don’t seem to change much.

  12. JohnnyE says:

    One of the accounts from the Titanic sinking told of a man who almost got washed into an open hatch as it was filling up.

    I knew an operations manager for a drilling company who researched whether a drilling rig could sink from lack of buoyancy during a blowout. His conclusion was that the incident that everybody referred to was caused by bubbling water entering an open hatch. The vessel might have lost a little buoyancy but not enough to cause any problems. He did some calculations that showed that the water depth would have to be very shallow with a tremendous amount of gas flow and yet there would hardly be any difference in buoyancy.

  13. John C. says:

    I’m not sure if it’s true, but as a student of history I’m made aware of the chef of the Titanic who rode the ship down until the very end. Supposedly, he stepped off and didn’t even get his hair wet. I’m not sure how confirmed this is, but it would certainly support the findings.

  14. once says:

    Obviously there are not many musicians around. Mutes do not completely block the flow of air. A mouth would give away before the bell would splinter and shoot the slide across the room.

  15. derekreising says:

    I thought it was a good myth but i am in a band and i think it wouldnt work myself

  16. Jamie M. says:

    the boat thing is plausible.

  17. Jamie H. says:

    Doing the Goldfish experiment as my science project!!!

  18. Amber S. says:

    Hahaha I am doing the science fair project with Jamie H. (:, goldfish here we come.

  19. Chris says:

    When big, i mean big ship sinking, it has lot of air on it, mixed of water and air, you not be sucked up, you just drop down, behind it.
    So busted, but not without questions.

  20. qassem says:

    i think the goldfish they smell the food and they

    follow the food smell by using sense of smell

  21. MO says:

    If the Titanic upended vertically and snapped in half (a legend proven by recent salvage missions), the chef could not have stepped off when the ship was about to go under.

  22. Shun says:

    The rate at which a ship sinks and how much it weighs will affect how much suction it has when it sinks, a warship which weighs a lot more due to armor will have greater suction.

  23. Quin says:

    Okay, so speaking of the sinking of boats and ships and things, here’s a question vaguely related:

    How many holes with a hand auger would you have to drill in the hull of a ship to get it to sink?

    There’s an old sea shanty originating from the 1600’s about a cabin boy who saves a ship and its crew (originally the captain was supposedly Walter Raleigh) by swimming to it and drilling the hull with holes. There are a zillion variations suggesting everything from three holes to “four and forty” holes, but I’m wondering if even 44 would be enough! The different variations all have different titles, too, but most commonly it’s called the “Golden Vanity” or the “Sweet Trinity”.

    So … what do you think?

    • Mike says:

      Hmmmmmmmmm Have you ever tried to drill a 3/4 hole in a peice of oak? (its what the ships were made of) I doubt that it happened. The pressure needed to turn the auger and for you to hold it in place to make the hole deeper would only result in the boy spinning in the water and being pushed away from the vessel ASK ANY DIVER.

  24. tracelene burke-smith says:

    i think the fish one was cleva

  25. Anna says:

    I’m doing the goldfish thing for my science fair project how lomg does it take?

  26. Lucas says:

    I think that the size of the ship makes a large diference. The larger the ship, the larger the displacement the water has to fill up causing the downward pull. The boat that they used was not nearly big enough to pull in a human. It also took to slow, giving the water more time to fill in the gap.

  27. Ken says:

    i think the factors of Size of the ship and how it goes down would determine wether or not theres any suction.

    in the case of how teh Titanic really went down (slipped quietly under) there would be no siction but how was shown in the movie, of the rear half going straight down, would create suction.

    teh swiming pool experiment was more representive of the later situation. most likely because of teh flatter surface on top

    • Dave schaaf says:

      the front half of Titanic slipped under. The back did not.

  28. Jerry says:

    In the trombonests with a fire cracker in the trombone, you left out the human reaction. What preasure came out of the mouth piece – what reaction would the trombonest have to this – would a sharp reaction of an arm – extending the arm out ward – give you the results you wanted. the motion of the arm was not considered.

  29. Wil says:

    Navies worldwide occasionally sinks old warships as artificial reefs. That would be a more appropriate way of testing the “dragged under” myth. Also, a large ship have a lot of air trapped inside when it sinks. You could use a swimming pool, make a device that makes a lot of bubbles and see what happens if one tries to swim in it. (you will loose buoyancy).
    You should do this myth again, a sinking ship really does drag one under, and it would be unfortunate if someone didn’t get away from the ship because of your program.

  30. felixnoir says:

    My father was on the cruiser ‘Suffolk’ accompanying arctic convoys in the second world war. He told me when I was young that sinking ships creating suction was a myth, as he had seen many ships torpedoed and sunk. I believed him but since then have read accounts where people were pulled under by a sinking ship. If you push a model ship down in the bath rapidly, you can sometimes make a kind of swirling vortex. I think it is possible that someone close by might be pulled into this current, pushed under, and lose orientation long enough to drown.

  31. Dung says:

    Goldfish… have 2 ponds with lots of gold fish. Had a great blue heron stop by for a few snacks and we thought the fish were history. Well a week later, the remaining fish in one pond reemerged. Was a couple weeks later before we saw a single fish in the other pond. They are all very skittish. I suppose the survivors may be skittish by nature and we rarely saw them before, but I do believe goldfish have a memory much longer than 3 seconds.

  32. Lorne says:

    Sinking ship busted i think not. This has to be revisited. I have been reading some factual books And watching a tv sieres about the first & second world war. All of witch make mention of people being pulled down by sinking ships even far enough to make their ears & nose bleed. If my memory serves my correct in the book The perfect storm this is also mentioned.They obviously need a much bigger vessel.

  33. ted says:

    I had a ship sink out from under me in the bearing Sea. I was sucked under by suction and was very lucky that my survival suit had enough flotation to bring me up once was under about 25 to thirty feet. so myth is confirmed. I have also witness large floating debris suck under when a vessel sink.s

    • Ray says:

      That must have been a wild ride. Thank goodness for Survival Suits eh? Good post, and that myth s NOT a myth.

  34. ted says:

    I had a ship sink out from under me in the bearing Sea. I was sucked under by suction and was very lucky that my survival suit had enough flotation to bring me up once was under about 25 to thirty feet. so myth is confirmed. I have also witness large floating debris suck under when a vessel sink.s

  35. earl holcomb says:

    you gyes had the ship go down on it’s side and not at the stern of the ship i belive if the ship was to go down at the stern htair would de sucking way that would pull pople down with the ship. i am going on the movie titanic be sids the ship titanic had split in to two parts. maby if you gyes would go in sum deeper water you would get the same thaing would happen.

    • Ray says:

      Man, listen to your spell checker. The red line under the words means something.

  36. Jeremy says:

    I’m really late to this party, but here is the problem most aren’t grasping.

    A small boat isn’t going to pull you under like a large ship will, because the small boat lacks one vital ingredient. Lots of air in trapped corridors.

    As a large ship goes under, the trapped air does what air does when it’s under water. It skyrockets to the surface as a bubble. As a large ship, thinking titanic size, goes down, a large amount of air is still trapped and constantly escaping out.

    These large amounts of air bubbles cause the water to lose it’s ability to support weight, and thus you begin to free fall behind the boat.

    This has been proven in lab tests to be able to bring down whole ships.

  37. Ric Vee says:

    I’m a reaally late arrival, but this is an extremely interesting topic…so here goes…

    I think just about everyone here, is correct… Depending on where the victim happened to be at the time of the sinking, any of the effects previously mentioned could be experienced at various positions on and around the sinking ship. The effects would be local in nature. For example, somebody who had the misfortune of being next to an open hatch, as the sea entered it, would almost certainly be “sucked in” by the rushing water. Others just a few metres away, would be unaffected. Survivors’ accounts of the sinking could thus be very different…

  38. janvones says:

    Goldfish lose their color due to what they are fed or not fed, not due to lack of light.

    • chris says:

      Hi there
      Goldfish loose colour based on the lack on light – they go a greyish colour. nothing to do with diet etc. However, it is worth noting that in most breeds, the ‘original’ colour of each breed was almost always black and the ‘gold’ or varietal colours have been a benefit of selective breeding!

  39. Ethan says:

    You should do a myth that you can jump off a tall building and land in water and live

  40. Angel says:

    Betta and Goldfish thrive in drfifefent temperature ranges. They are not fit to go together. Even different varieties of goldfish should not be put in the same tank. Single tails are fast swimmer and double tails with other characteristics like telescope eyes are slow swimmer and cannot see as well and compete for the food.

  41. Roy says:

    Physics isn’t my strong point but I’m not convinced sinking a 14 ton tugboat proves that the 48,000 ton Titanic was incapable of dragging down swimmers and/or lifeboats very close to it. There have been 23 supertankers built with gross tonnages of +200,000 (the 4 biggest were 275,000 tons) would they also be as safe to swim next to as a tugboat if they upended and sank like the Titanic did? I wonder…

  42. Tom says:

    I can maybe shed some light on why the trombone myth result wasn’t as spectacular as the myth. Buster is never a perfect replacement for a person. He is a dead weight. In the myth the conductor was thrown backwards into the crowd. Well if this had happened which is possible, of course he would have fallen backwards if not from the force, but from the shock of being shot at!! Mythbusters approach a lot of their myths that way and I can see why they fail a lot of the time. There are many more factors that come into play than just creating a rig.

    • daffers234 says:

      Tom, I agree with your conception of the conductor’s reaction.

      However, as a former trombone player myself, the myth seems highly unlikely as-is. First off, trombone bells are one piece and wouldn’t peel back like that. Second off if you were holding it properly and had your mouth to it to play the last note, the explosion would likely launch the MUTE, if anything. They’re not too strong in there since they have to be removed. Sure, you and the ‘bone would probably both be goners, but it would not be near as spectacular as people believe. Just my opinion :-)

  43. laura says:

    copper piping lead sulfu to join it chlorine from tap water
    plus oxygine causes gas explosions in ship cabins too their was a big blow out the captian lost stearing control and then they hit the ice berg friends
    what a sad loss of life

    today we had piper alpha the same only sea water is worse with copper

  44. laura says:

    copper lead chlorine oxegin sulfer kill the goldfish too
    and all animals and their babies too

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