Episode 6: Lightning Strikes Tongue, Tree Cannon, Beat the Breath Test

Air Date: November 7, 2003

Metal body piercings increase one’s chances of being hit by lightning.


The lightning does seem to strike a pierced body more, but not the piercings directly. It would take a piercing the size of a doorknob to attract lightning.

Under siege from a neighboring clan, a Medieval Hungarian town (Paks) built a cannon out of a tree overnight, but wiped out a great deal of itself when the cannon exploded during a test-fire.

partly confirmed

It is impossible to bore a barrel out of a log in a single night using the technology available at that time. The cannon made of a log, loaded with 6 ounces of gunpowder, successfully fired a 1-pound granite cannonball a significant distance (exact measurement unavailable since the cannonball was not found). Loaded with 5 pounds of gunpowder, and with its barrel plugged, the tree cannon exploded violently enough to feasibly destroy part of a small medieval town like Paks. During the test, several blast shields and a tractor were placed between the cannon and the MythBusters crew for protection – large pieces of the gun were sent way behind them.

Using various substances and tricks (eating an onion, eating breath mints, drinking mouthwash, placing a penny in the mouth, etc.) when drunk can allow someone to beat the breathalyzer test.


None of the tested methods worked and a blood sample can always be requested by the police. In addition, mouthwash actually made the breathalyzer give a higher reading than usual because of the inherent alcohol content.


  1. Gregg says:

    Metal body piercings increase one’s chances of being hit by lightning: “The lightning does seem to strike a pierced body more” sounds like a confirmation to me. The hypothesis says nothing about direct hit on the piercing(s).

  2. Peter says:

    Recent evidence shows that you’re likely to burn your ears if struck by lightning when wearing an iPod (BMJ).

    • MSpears says:

      On the other hand, burned ears are a small price to pay for a saved life. What happens is that the wires of the earbuds provides another path for lightning, which always follows the path of least resistance.

      • jay says:

        True that, im only in 7th grade and my class watched this video, and I think your exactly right. The wires would probable make another path for the lighting.

  3. Jeremy says:

    I’ve got to agree with Gregg’s conclusions concerning the lightning and piercings test. Also, I suspect that even if Adam and Jamie had found a way to beat the breathalyser, there’s no chance they would have televised it, especially with the police participating in the test. The speed camara test they did in a later episode, with the help of the speed camera developer, is no different. I love the show, but I think that tests like this, where there is a blatant conflict of interest, are a bit of a waste of airtime.

  4. Twin sistas says:

    we think the breath test is awesome with the mouth wash making it higher!

    And we agree w/ gregg!! we thought it would make it more common to get struck w/ the piercings!!

  5. BILL JENNINGS says:

    can lighting be attracted to a wireless head set such as a blue tooth ? your show is a favorite among long haul drivers.

  6. Krystin says:

    Me and a few of friends went to a party not to long ago and we got really drunk right and we got pulled over the cop had to take all of us girls in and for some reason gave us the test there and we had stuck penny’s in our mouths right before we got into the car and we all of our tests came out negative tho the officer new we were drunk and under age he had to let us go.

  7. Timothy says:

    I was there and that is not what happened Krystin. Don’t you remember he let us go because you polished off his sausage like a champ. What a fun and crazy night that was!

  8. Croatia says:

    I loved how Adam was so courageous to get his own tongue pierced. Congrats!!! Also I think the only reason why the myth was busted because they put the heads on metal mounts. That’s all I gotta say.

  9. Croatia says:

    Also the reason why the mouthwash did’nt work was because it had alcohol in it. They should’ve used alcohol free.

  10. j boy says:

    I think it would be impossible to make a
    cannon in one night with midevil tools.
    Nice try mythbusters!

  11. illjim says:

    I heard many years ago that if you eat enough honey to coat your throat and the inside of your mouth, you can beat the breathalyzer. Of course, I heard this from an old beekeeper and I’ve never actually tried this out.

  12. ken says:

    You can beat the breathalyzer by hyperventilating not the blood test

  13. Rick says:

    Couldn’t you just tell the cop that you were using mouthwash if you flunk a breath test?
    Then if he asks for a blood test, you tell him you’re a hemophiliac and if they poke you, you’ll bleed out and die. By the time they figure out you’re lying, you’ll be sober enough to pass.

  14. Kari says:

    I’ve often wondered if the “scent remover” disks they sell at stores like “bed bath & beyond” or “linens and things” that are the size of a small dog tag could be hidden in the top of your mouth and eliminate the smell enough to fool a breathalyzer.

  15. bfr says:


    Breathalyzer does not measure the “scent” of you breath. Some of the alcohol from your blood is absorbed in to the air when you breathe, and the device measures the percentage of alcohol in the air you exhale. Only thing that could help would be some kind of “gas container” of “fan” in your mouth that blew external air in to the breathalyzer.

    You could try to put a balloon in your mouth and release it to the breathalyzer :)
    Just remember to fill it BEFORE you start drinking.

    I’ve also heard that some people can inhale trough their noses while exhaling trough the mouth.. that could help also as part of the air would never enter your lungs,

  16. Tom says:

    Instead of trying to fool the breathalyzer there’s an easier way to beat the test…don’t drink and drive!!!

    Killing with a gun is murder…it should be the same for drunk driving. Both are lethal weapons.

    • Grover Jones says:

      Absolutely right, mate.

  17. Catch says:

    I think it is safe to say, that if you have piercings, and you are listening to your iPod while using a Blue tooth, do not do so outside during a lightning storm.

  18. AndyB says:

    A Breath test CAN be beaten by hyperventilating I confirmed this. Hyperventilating flushes the air in the lungs and purges the residual air in the lungs of excess alcohol vapour. doingh it fast flushes faster than alcohol accumulates in the air in the lungs.
    You need to breath deeply in and deeply out. BUT this needs to be done VERY close to the time of the breath test else alcohol vapour accumulates in the air in the lungs again. -So fake a panic attack… being stopped by a cop should be excuse enough!. Inhaling through the nose while still blowing like diggeridoo players would be a great idea but it’s difficult to maintain enough airflow so as not to invalidate the test.
    The blood test is very hard to fake out… I agree delaying is a good idea… saying you’re haemophiliac would be great. BUT the Dr. may be fast arriving. Only way to be sure is to reduce the alcohol in the blood: same idea as for breath… here you ‘wash it out’ a bit by drinking LOADS of water (which will dilute it a bit) and peeing … Hopefully by the time the Dr. comes to bust your haemophiliac myth, your blood will be purer!

  19. DennisB says:

    Its not impossible to make the wooden cannon. They had all the materials and technical skills at the time of the siege. The process doesn’t have to be completely mechanical. Use an iron rod heated red to white hot. Burn the hole then bore it out to smooth it. Wood workers have been using fire to hollow out everything from spoons to ocean going canoes.

    Also I noticed that they used iron banding. What would limit the number of bands? Nothing says, they couldn’t have abutted them for the length of the cannon. If they could do that the could make the wooden part of the contraption in two parts.

  20. al says:

    heard that a anti acid mint can fool it
    as they measure acid on the breath
    and a cigerette/food/soft drink can register on the test machine too

  21. Bulgaria says:

    It is a shame to say this is myth, or “partly confermed”. The tree canon is documented in the Bulgarian Hystory, and ALL the revolutions against the Ottoman Turks(1815-1878). It is used in the bulgarian and balkan literature many, many times.
    If you want to learn more, google bulgarian history, or just find an expert to tell you, how blind you were.
    It is a shame and I hope the MythBusters will acknowledge it publicly.

  22. Shelly Depp says:

    well, you can actually pass the breath test by eating a white chocolate bar!!! I’ve never tried it but my brother did and he got away… the traffic officer couldn’t believe the results! Remember to use WHITE ChoColate. don’T know why…

  23. Kimm says:

    Here is a thought……how about not drinking and driving????

  24. Sophie says:

    I have 2 4 the peircings one you should supersize it and get mabye 50 peircing all in a circle then test that or get a peircing the size of a doorknob or make one.For beat the breath teat you should eat mint or parsly and other herbs.

  25. Richard says:

    1st off, I dont drink and drive. I got busted at work today because they smelt alcohol on my breath and I was tested at .04 when they took me to the testing clinic. Obviously I wasnt drunk, but was drinking the night before and stopped at 10pm. I drink a few nights a week, when my sons arent here with me. I dont want to change my ways because I’m not a drunk and I dont have a problem,,,But when I’m alone, I wanna do what I want to. Is there a way to lower the test results before taking a breathalizer test ? Ive read all about hyperventalation, onion rings, etc… Whats real ???


  26. Thomas says:

    First of all, I’m really flabbergasted (yes!) that noone has pointed out these two megaflaws in the tree cannon construction.

    Second is the flaw numero uno: Why, oh why? Did you have to sharpen/grind the spoon drill the wrong way?
    You actually made the cutting angle steeper!!!

    Try asking someone used to working with a lathe!

    Third, ach Crivens! Ye bandings! Who ever taught your smith to form bandings on the receptacle?
    Ye bandings be WARM! And yer receptacle is gonna burn away!
    So your fine bands won’t fit! Ever!

    Sharpen your spoon drill so you remove more on the inside than on the outside.

    “Form” your steel bands on something like your barrel, then hammer them on!


  27. Roets says:

    On the alcohol breath test, try eating a guava before testing…..

  28. misasoup says:

    what if you have a whole bunch of piercings on your face, then wouldn’t the lightning just go to your face. I mean, a lot of metal piercings can be enough to make a doorknob so…not much else to say but that it sounds confirmed to me, not busted.

  29. stephen says:

    Did anyone ever find the granite cannonball from this episode? I realize it’s been (somewhere) 7 or 8 years by now, but I was just wondering if anyone did a methodical search after the filming was done.

  30. Chuck says:

    First off we won’t drink and drive when bars offer free rides home (since you have to drive to them to drink!) and second, every time this show tries any myth to get around a law (breathalyzer, plate covers for cameras, etc.) I KNOW the show will NEVER confirm it otherwise they will probably be sued by the law enforcement community for encouraging viewers to break the law.

  31. Corky says:

    The tree cannon could have bin done in one night if they used a hollow tree and that would explain why it blew up. I also think they would have used glass nails, glass etc. instead of a canon ball.

  32. Edward says:

    The cannon could have been sawed in half length wise and chiseled out then tied together with rope

  33. Jacob says:

    There are a few factors In the lightening myth that I don’t believe were properly taken into account. First of all, ballistics gel may share similar properties to skin, but what about bone? Seems to me that lightening may travel around the skull, rather than straight through it like in the episode. Another factor to take into account is that most human heads aren’t directly above a metal wok. Perhaps that had a stronger attraction than the piercings, but the extra metal from the piercing still helped to pull the lightening in it’s direction. I would be very interested to see this myth revisited sometime.

  34. Tom says:

    As an underwater welder for 25 years, I can state absolutely, that any jewelry (rings bracelets, etc.) increases your chances of electric shock, but not necessarily at the site of the jewelry itself. Don’t really know why this is, but it’s true. I always hated this episode, because their initial “myth” is that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning if you have a piercing. In every on of their tests, the pierced head gets struck and the unpierced one doesn’t. Just because the lightning didn’t strike the piercing itself, they claimed the myth was busted when they actually proved it.

  35. Cherry says:

    As an optional homework we could watch this episode I haven’t been able to find and watch this episode if anyone could give me a summary on the what happened in the tongue piercing lighning experiment including:
    Why were woks used as bases for the gelatine heads?
    Why was a plexiglass spike used instead of metal?
    I would highly appreciate it

  36. Benjamin says:

    I was wondering if it would matter if you had fillings that were a different metal than the tongue ring. I know from previous episodes (fillings cause you to hear radio)that the different metals would cause a charge in your mouth. I know it is a small charge, but it is still a charge. Therefore you are precharged before the lighting strike.

  37. Will says:

    I’ve heard em all. But, the one that seems more reasonable and true Is peanut butter or peanuts. I would like to see you test this theory because I believe it to be true it also has science backing.

  38. jimmyjohn says:

    I suspect they did find a way of beating the breathalyzer test, they just didn’t show it, so as to preserve the integrity of the test. They’ve censored information in the past like that.

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