Episode 20: Exploding Jawbreaker

Air Date: October 27, 2004

A jawbreaker can explode when bitten after being heated in a microwave oven or standing out in the sunlight while still in the wrapper.


Microwave heating of a jawbreaker can cause the different layers inside to heat at different rates, yielding an explosive spray of very hot candy when compressed. During one test, a jawbreaker did indeed explode, catching Christine on part of her face and neck, and Adam on part of an arm, as the "jaw rig" they had set up was not enclosed by safety screens. Both suffered light burns. In Florida, a young girl suffered severe burns to her face when one exploded. When heated in a toaster oven to replicate the conditions of being left out in the sun, the jawbreaker did not explode, but the insides were molten enough to be potentially harmful. Various explanations for why this could occur, including chemical tainting, all further strengthened the "confirmed" assessment.

A construction worker accidentally killed himself with static charge after sandblasting an 8 foot PVC pipe.


No static charge built up on the pipe in initial testing. Even after they were converted into a Van de Graaff generator and a Leyden jar, the amount of static electricity produced was too small to actually kill a person. The original circumstances of the myth preclude any significant static buildup – resting the pipe on metal jack stands allows the pipe to discharge to the ground while sand in the air from the sandblasting can dissipate static charge the same way humidity can.

An ordinary playing card can actually kill a person if thrown with enough power.


Adam was already fairly adept at throwing cards, his maximum speed being 25mph; this failed to cause any injury. After trying some designs for a card-throwing machine, Adam and Jamie settled on a design that could throw cards at 155mph. When this device was used on Jamie, it caused a small cut that only drew a small amount of blood.


  1. Mike McConnell says:

    Just heard that somewhere in south Florida at a bar, a fight broke out and somebody threw/flicked a playing card at one of the people he was attacking/defending getting him in the neck severing an artery. The poor guy is at a hospital right now. It happened last night August 7, 2007. So, I’m looking around for news of that story to come out.

    And if true, then certainly Jamie and Adam will need to revise their “busted” conclusion that ordinary playing card cannot kill a person when thrown.

  2. Alan Bam says:

    Yes i heard of that story too, i think they’ll need to redo that myth

  3. Dinj says:

    Wow…yeah, looked up that story…I think that “small cut” means its plausible though. I mean, hit an artery or vein, and bam, they could easily bleed to death. This one needs to be revisited.

  4. AlwaysWrecked says:

    If any of you watched the World Series of Poker from 2002 or 2003 there is a segment they included in one episode called “the nuts” which focuses on the odd and sometimes obscure parts of card playing. In one such section Chris “Jesus” Ferguson threw cards at various vegetables, slicing them all in half from a range of 6 to 10 feet. Being able to cut a carrot in half with a single stroke like that, although that may not be a lethal force on a human, would definitely break the skin. I think they should re-visit this with Ferguson as a guest and see just how deep his card throwing tactics can cut.

  5. bryan says:

    In addition,magician Ricky Jay can penetrate the skin of a watermelon with a playing card(I didn’t see this episode-I thought they consulted w/him on it.)He does it on youtube.I would think he could get a card to go pretty deeply into skin. They definitely need to re-look at this and consult Jay.

  6. Travis says:

    In the spring of 1993 I was working at Landmark Petroleum in Fruita, CO and was knocked to the ground with static electricity. The arc was approximately 2.5 to 3 feet in length and was observed by our safety manager. The shock entered through the tip of my left index finger and felt as though I was punched, very hard, in the shoulder. Silica sand was being pumped THROUGH the PVC pipe that was approximately the same diameter and length as the one used in this episode. I KNOW they should revisit this “myth”. You can even purchase “grounded” PVC because of this problem.

  7. Hyler says:

    You can build up a very large static charge on PVC pipe by useing it to place blown in paper fiber insulation. I had the experience of having a blinding flash and a loud report while doing this work in my attic. Fortunatly the charge went into a grounded electric box. If you have ever done this work you may have experienced feeling the hair on your arm stand up as chuncks of matterial pass through the rubber hose.

  8. Me Three says:

    PVC pipe plus pulp fiber equals wicked static charge. At my old job, several people complained of shocks while cleaning pulp fibers out of a steam heat exchanger coils when vacuuming with PVC pipe wands.

  9. shotblaster says:

    I worked as a shotblaster for 3 years and a few times encountered pvc and can say that this myth may well be plausable.The working conditions involved an extractor so the environment stayed clear of dust, also the type of abrasive may be key to a succesful shock although not sure this is just the setup I worked in.I generally used aluminium oxide a larger grit is better to keep dust levels down.I personally have felt a very large shock the bolt was about an inch thick and made a very loud clap although it wasnt a tube i was blasting but a sheet it obviously didnt kill me but i would think that if the piece of pvc was a lot larger it may well do so.

  10. Zephraim Dotson says:

    have any of you heard about the buddist monks who can shatter steel with a single punch or kick? They had a documentary of it on the discovery channel or some other station. not exactly sure. I think Adam and Jamie should check it out, what do you people think?

  11. Steve says:

    I worked at the Syncrotron particle accelerator at the University of Wisconsin. In 1988 a co-worker was shocked and rendered unconscious by a discharge caused by sandblasting the inside of a long section of PVC pipe. The crucial element that was missing from the test on the show is that my co-worker was sandblasting the *interior* of the pipe. From a physics perspective it is easy to see why this is different: trying to apply charge to the outside surface is self-limiting– the more charge builds up, the more repulsion there is. This is not true of interior surfaces– a uniformly charged cylinder has no electric field anywhere in the interior of the cylinder. This allows charges to be brought to the interior wall and transferred irrespective of how much charge is already there. This is the same principle by which the Van de Graaf generator works. While PVC is an innsulator and thus there is no explicit guarantee that the charge will be uniformly distributed, the sandblasting grit would act as the conductor. If charge began to concentrate in one place, the resulting electric field would cause an increase in the rate of charge deposition opposite the excess charge region.

  12. jay says:

    I was just sandblasting some fiberglass (Acculam) panels that will be used in the aerospace industry and these puppies can really build up a static charge. The panels are 2′x3′ & .035″ thick and can create a spark over 2.5″ long, I was hit by one of these and it made my whole body jolt, from my head to my toes. I was a little numb and tingly for about 5 minutes afterward and while I don’t know if this was enough to kill a person, it was not a pleasant experience….. While it’s not PVC pipe, it is a composite.

  13. JulietEcho says:

    I saw Adam speak at DragonCon a few months ago (it was so awesome!) and he starting throwing playing cards from off-stage at the guy introducing him, producing many lols :-) He threw a few at the audience when he came out, and admitted that Jaime won’t let him do it on set, which I thought was hilarious.

  14. Jay Bradford says:

    I work for a explosives company in which we used PVC pipe to load anfo into bore holes on a surface coal mine in the winter time. The pipe built up enough charge that when it discharged it sounded like thunder the blaster ,who was loading anfo into the bore hole,was afraid to look at his hand thinking it might be missing.Fortunately enough he had only received a bad shock.Today since the accident our company no longer uses PVC pipe on the bulk anfo trucks due too possibly igniting the explosives in the bore hole,but if a person had a possible heart condition the discharge could kill him! Thank You :Jay Bradford

  15. Mark says:

    humidity is a huge factor in tribocharging. I expect in a dry enough environs with insulating stands for the pipe and the proper difference between the sandblasting material and pipe, one could generate a sizable electric shock. See: triboelectric series

  16. Travis says:

    i am a poker dealer in a casino in florida, so when i watched this episode i was shocked that adam and jaime used regular old Bicycle poker cards that just coated paper. i think they would get a much better using a deck of plastic cards like copags, which run about 16 buck for two decks.

  17. Guy Orsini says:

    I worked as a sandblaster for over 10 years and I can attest to how much of a static charge plastics and composite materials will build up if not properly grounded. This is especially true if you are using reclaimed sand that has been through the cycle a few times and had time for some of the granules to become almost powder fine.
    Try placing something like rubber, which would be used between the PVC and any hanger brackets to protect it from wear due to heat expansion and see what happens then.

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