MythBusters Results Outcomes from all MythBusters Episodes Sun, 16 Oct 2011 02:22:36 +0000 en hourly 1 Episode 169: Let There Be Light Thu, 23 Jun 2011 02:00:52 +0000 Buster

A system of mirrors can be used to reflect sunlight into an underground area and illuminate it sufficiently to allow safe passage. (Based on a scene in the film The Mummy.)

plausible (but ridiculous)

Adam and Jamie built an obstacle course in the shop and used it to determine the minimum level of light needed to see. To match the circumstances shown in the movie, Adam went from a brightly lit area into total darkness, then to the course; his goal was to reach the other end without knocking over any glasses. He succeeded at a level of 0.39 lux, while the pair estimated that the movie scene had used roughly 200 lux.

Next, they set up six mirrors to bounce light back and forth down the length of the shop, using a spotlight as the source. Polished metal mirrors gave 1.13 lux, but caused the beam to spread out after only a few reflections. When modern glass mirrors were used instead, the light level registered at 0.49 lux and the beam stayed focused longer. Adam and Jamie realized that the light needed to scatter in order to illuminate the room.

At Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, they set up a hangar area as a full-scale tomb and brought in six glass mirrors and a 7,000-watt spotlight. After adjusting the mirrors, they measured a light level of 2.3 lux and could easily see their way around. Once the sky cleared, they reflected sunlight into the tomb and found a peak of 2.5 lux until the sun’s position shifted, throwing off the mirrors’ alignment. Finally, Jamie stood in the light beam, which scattered in the air when it hit his white shirt and gave 8.6 lux. The need to keep adjusting the mirrors, and the unlikely prospect of finding several of them ready to use after thousands of years underground, led them to declare the myth “plausible but ridiculous”.

It is possible to safely stop an out-of-control car by pulling in front of it with another car and slowing down.


After taking lessons in stunt driving, Grant, Kari, and Tory tested a scenario in which the runaway car would be coasting without the driver’s foot on the accelerator. As Kari drove without using either the steering wheel or the brake/gas pedals, Grant pulled in front and slowed down until he made contact with her bumper. He was able to stop her from a starting speed of 35 mph and again from 55 mph (56 and 89 km/h). They then tested the possibility of a stuck accelerator and no steering. Kari drove at 75 mph (121 km/h) with her foot on the gas pedal; Tory stopped her with some difficulty, just short of hitting a fence. They declared the myth confirmed at this point.

Next, Grant and Tory tried to sandwich Kari’s car from either side and managed to stop her, though they began to spin out somewhat. The two men then built separate car-stoppers: Grant made side paddles to attach to the two rescue cars’ front bumpers (to block in the runaway car), while Tory made a hood-mounted spear to hook the rescue and runaway cars together so the rescuer can slow them both down. Both rigs were successful.

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Special 15: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Thu, 16 Jun 2011 02:00:27 +0000 Buster This special episode presented a countdown of the cast’s favorite myths involving various forms of transportation.

12. Plane Crazy

Myth: Talked Into Landing

Recounted “breaking” a NASA flight simulator.

11. Out of Control

Myth: Instant Convertible

Described trouble with setting up crashes (towing, remote control, etc.)

10. Fuel for Thought

Myth: Don’t Drive Angry

Grant and Tory relived the stress that Kari put them through to test this myth.

9. 2 Wheels … Are better than 4

Myths: Motor Bike Flip, Tablecloth Chaos

Adam and Jamie commented on two motorcycle-related myths.

8. RC Freaks

Myth: Car Skip

Revealed further troubles with remote control systems on cars.

7. Stunt Driving

Myths: Drafting for Money, Knight Rider Ramp, Cyclists Drafting a Big Rig

Exhibited various specialized driving by the cast. Included an unaired segment in which Tory drafts behind a truck while riding a bicycle.

6. Controversy Corner

Myth: Airplane on a Conveyor Belt

This myth has generated the most debate among viewers.

5. Putting it on the Line

Myths: Peeing on the Third Rail (2003), Peeing on the Third Rail (2004)

Told of Adam urinating on camera to help build the original dummy for this myth, then later, on an electric fence.

4. Pimp My Ride

Myth: Reverse Engineering

Highlighted extreme modifications to cars for testing myths.

3. Need for Speed

Myth: Sonic Boom Sound-Off

Revealed how Adam vomited as he broke the sound barrier during a flight with the Blue Angels.

2. Taxi!

Myth: Supersize Jet Taxi

Explained how testing was complicated first by insurance company objections, then by pavement peeling off the runway.

1. Carmageddon

Donated Car Explosion (Adam)
Ramp Jump (Jamie)
Fixing a Car with Duct Tape (Kari)
Snowplow Split (Grant)
Elevator Car Cut (Tory)

Each cast member revealed their favorite myth involving automotive destruction.

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Episode 168: Fixing a Flat Thu, 09 Jun 2011 02:00:35 +0000 Buster

A fish on the end of a fishing line can swim so fast that the line’s reel will catch fire due to friction.


After spending a day trying to catch fish without success, the Build Team returned to the shop to test line/reel combinations. They began with a lever-drag reel and measured the maximum temperature achieved with the line running out at 20 miles per hour. Four different lines were tested, with braided Spectra giving the highest result of 158°F; it was used for all further testing. Next, the team switched to older-design star-drag reels, one of which reached 245°F and showed large amounts of smoke.

For full-scale testing, the team outfitted a go-kart to match the mass and top swimming speed of a typical sailfish and hooked their line to it from a star-drag reel. Kari drove it at 68 mph, while Tory applied drag and Grant measured the temperature. The first two runs gave a peak of 530°F and smoked without any fire, even after Tory used larger amounts of flammable lubricant on the second run.

Declaring the myth busted, the team brought in a professional motorcycle racer and his sidecar rig to achieve higher speeds. Tory also changed the lubricant out for even more flammable engine starting fluid. Runs at 140 and 180 mph gave temperatures over 700°F, with the second of these causing the line to melt without burning. Finally, Tory set the reel on fire by exposing it to an open flame.

A car with a flat tire can be made temporarily drivable by stuffing the tire with straw.


Adam and Jamie removed the wheel, stuffed the tire with straw, and re-mounted it. The car performed adequately through one lap, but showed signs of losing its stuffing. Adam and Jamie decided that straw could work as a short-term fix.

A car with a flat tire can be made temporarily drivable by placing a makeshift sled under the tire.


They forced a branch underneath the flat tire, running front to back, and lashed it to the wheel. Although Jamie was able to drive the car forward with a push from Adam, the branch came off at a speed bump.

A car with a flat tire can be made temporarily drivable by replacing the tire with a wheel carved from a log.


They cut a log section to size, made it as round as possible, and mounted it in place of the wheel. It performed well through one full lap, and Adam and Jamie decided that it was the best solution so far.

A car with a flat tire can be made temporarily drivable by mounting a manhole cover to the wheel.


Adam found a cover that was the same size as the tire, mounted it, and was able to drive the course successfully.

A car with a flat tire can be temporarily driven on the bare rim.


Despite the trouble with balance and poor acceleration, Jamie was able to navigate through every obstacle in the course.

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Episode 167: Dodge a Bullet Thu, 02 Jun 2011 02:00:15 +0000 Buster

It is possible to dodge a bullet if the shooter is far enough away the target.


Adam and Jamie called in a U.S. Army sniper for some preliminary tests to measure the time it took for a bullet to reach its target. After some failed attempts, they obtained travel times of 231, 597, and 1791 ms for distances of 200, 500, and 1,200 yd (180, 460, and 1,100 m), respectively. Next, the pair did some workshop tests to find how quickly they could dodge a shot, using a camera flash to simulate the muzzle flash. Jamie proved slightly faster, dodging in 490 ms; based on this result, he and Adam calculated that the shooter would have to be at least 400 yd (366 m) away.

They then watched Dave fire standard blank cartridges from various distances and found that they could not see his muzzle flash at all past 200 yd (183 m). When he switched to Hollywood-style blanks with much heavier gunpowder loads, they could easily see the flash out to 1,200 yd (1,097 m). Finally, they set up a blank-firing rifle at 200 yards, wired to a timer and paintball gun; when one man pulled the trigger, a paintball would be fired directly at the other’s chest after 231 ms. Neither was able to dodge any shots until the rifle was moved to 500 yd (457 m) (600 ms delay) and loaded with Hollywood blanks. Adam and Jamie declared the myth busted, since an actual sniper would take precautions to ensure that the target would not see the muzzle flash.

A person who falls from a great height into water will sustain the same injuries as if he had landed on pavement.


The Build Team fitted Buster with accelerometers, hauled him up with a construction crane, and dropped him feet-first onto pavement and water. Drops from 25 ft (8 m) gave g-force measurements of 60 g on pavement, but less than 25 g on water (the lower threshold that the instruments could measure). At 75 ft (23 m), the team obtained a reading of 29 g for water, but over 500 g for pavement (the upper measuring limit). To investigate the effect of body orientation on impact forces, the team did more drops with Buster in a belly-flop position. Pavement and water drops from 25 ft (8 m) gave 286 g and 115 g, respectively, while 50 ft (15 m) drops maxed out the instrument on pavement and registered 220 g on water.

For a final test at terminal velocity (roughly 120 miles per hour), Tory threw two pig carcasses out of a helicopter at 600 ft (183 m), after which they were X-rayed to determine injuries. The pavement drop resulted in 17 fractures, a shattered pelvis, and a decapitation, while the water drop yielded 7 fractures and a broken neck. Since no water landing produced the same level of impact force or injury as a fall from the same height onto pavement, the team declared the myth busted.

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Episode 166: Spy Car 2 Thu, 19 May 2011 02:00:06 +0000 Buster

In a car chase, using wheel-mounted spikes is an effective offensive tactic.


Jamie built replicas of wheel spikes from the films Goldfinger (a small blade wheel on a long central shaft) and The Green Hornet (a crown-like assembly of spikes). He and Adam drove side-by-side at 40 mph (64 km/h), with Jamie using each of the devices attached to his rear passenger tire to damage Adam’s driver’s side as much as possible over 500 yards (457 m). Both spike designs shredded at least one of Adam’s tires and left deep gouges in the bodywork.

Jamie then built a device of his own design using a steel pipe the same diameter as the hubcap, with the free end sharpened into two sturdy blades. This design tore up Adam’s bodywork, popped one tire, and pulled the other one off its rim, leaving the car sitting on its chassis.

In a car chase, using a hood-mounted machine gun is an effective offensive tactic.


Adam built two different mounts to hold a fully automatic paintball gun on the hood of a car — one for a fixed position gun, and another that could be aimed with a joystick and camera/monitor system. He and Jamie did a control run, with Adam driving and shooting at a target vehicle with a handheld semiautomatic gun, but only scored one glancing hit.

Next, Adam mounted the automatic paintball gun and a full ammunition hopper on his hood and chased Jamie, who drove a target car with the rear windshield removed. He was able to riddle the rear end and hit Jamie’s head and seat a few times with the fixed mount; with the aiming mount, he got so many hits in such a short time that Jamie called an early end to the run.

A bullet fired into the surface of a frozen lake can spin like a top after impact. (Inspired by a viral video.)


The testing for this myth began during the summer, with Tory building a rig to hold a pistol at any desired angle and Kari checking the video to work out the geometry of the shot. The Build Team then laid down blocks of ice and dry ice on a rifle range to simulate the frozen lake and tried several shots with a Glock 9 mm pistol. Direct hits left bullets embedded in the ice, while shallow hits ricocheted and left the team unable to find the bullets at all.

After re-checking their own high-speed footage, the team heard a sound that might have been a spinning bullet. Once winter came, they visited Caples Lake in the Sierra Nevada and dug out a target area on its frozen surface for further work. Testing gave no results until they aimed at the center of their target site, allowing for a backward ricochet instead of a forward one. The team found the bullets from these last tests to be spinning in place on their side, leading them to declare the myth confirmed.

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Episode 165: Blow Your Own Sail Thu, 12 May 2011 02:00:50 +0000 Buster

A sailboat stranded in calm water can move forward by using an on-board fan to blow air into its own sail.


The Build Team set up small-scale tests in the shop using a wheeled cart on a tabletop. Kari demonstrated that a forward-facing model airplane propeller could generate enough thrust to push the cart backward. However, after Grant fitted a sail onto the cart, the prop could not move the cart due to the equal and opposite forces acting within the system.

With smaller sails and higher prop speeds, the cart rolled backward again because air spilled around the edges of the sail. A combination of a large sail and an elevated, high-power fan did result in the cart moving forward; Grant theorized that this was caused by the sail reflecting a portion of the prop’s thrust backward. A larger-scale test with a miniature jet engine mounted on a skateboard gave the same effect.

Finally, the team set up a full-scale test on a lake, using a swamp boat with a 40-horsepower fan. In its normal configuration, the boat reached a speed of 20 miles per hour (32 kph). After the fan was reversed and a sail was hoisted, the boat was able to travel forward at 3 mph with some careful steering, confirming the myth premise.

The movie sound effect of a punch sounds like its real-world counterpart.


Adam and Jamie first hung up a pig carcass and took turns punching it, but they had to subdue their punches in order to keep from injuring their hands. The results did not resemble the movie sound effects, so Adam attached a ballistic-gelatin fist to a baseball bat and swung it at the carcass full force, with similar results. A professional sound designer explained that the movie punch sound was heavily manipulated and built up from various component sounds to increase drama.

The movie sound effect of a rattlesnake’s rattle sounds like its real-world counterpart.


A snake expert brought in a rattlesnake and coaxed it to shake its tail, resulting in a sound very close to its movie counterpart.

The movie sound effect of a gun fitted with a silencer (a.k.a. suppressor) sounds like its real-world counterpart.


Adam and Jamie visited a shooting range and fired .45 caliber and 9mm pistols, both with and without suppressors. With the help of sound expert, they found that the suppressor reduced the sound level considerably, from 161 to 126 decibels for the .45. The movie sound effect was not a perfect match, but did have enough similarity to result in a “plausible” verdict.

The movie sound effect of an explosion sounds like its real-world counterpart.


Jamie blew up a car rigged with primer cord and 2 gallons of gasoline. He, Adam, and the sound expert observed that the movie explosion had a longer duration and covered a wider range of frequencies than the real sound. A second attempt, using 2.2 pounds of C-4, gave a more substantial blast but still did not match the movie sound effect.

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Episode 164: Torpedo Tastic Thu, 05 May 2011 02:00:16 +0000 Buster

13th-century Syrians designed a torpedo-like weapon that could travel over the surface of a body of water and explode on impact.


Examining historical records, Adam and Jamie found that the weapon had a pear-shaped upper hull, rear stabilizing fins, and a propellant equivalent to 20 lb (9 kg) of black powder. They each built separate prototypes with different lower hulls and tested them for accuracy, with Jamie’s flat-bottom craft traveling straighter and farther than Adam’s V-hull design.

Next, Adam and Jamie built several full-scale torpedoes, took them to a lake, and set up a target ship 800 ft (244 m) from shore. In the initial accuracy tests, the power of the rockets caused the torpedo to go wildly airborne and miss the target completely. For the next two trials on payload delivery, they used a tether to guide the torpedo, but were unable to score a hit even after they moved the ship to within 200 ft (61 m) of shore. Finally, they removed the tether and reduced the rocket power significantly, allowing them to hit the ship and set it on fire with the incendiary payload. They classified the myth as plausible, since they could find no record of the device being used in combat.

If a truck filled with bottled wine catches fire, the heat can cause the corks to blow out and fly 100 ft (30 m), sounding similar to a machine gun. (Based on published accounts of such an accident.)


The Build Team first investigated wine and bottle type and temperature in the shop. They placed each bottle on a burner and measured the distance each cork flew. Chilling the bottles beforehand increased the distance. The best performer of the still wines was Riesling (30 ft / 9 m), while the best overall was Champagne (50 ft / 15 m).

For a full-scale test, the team loaded a semi trailer with 1,000 bottles of champagne and some Riesling, then set fire to it. All three agreed that the sound of the exploding corks resembled machine guns or firecrackers; however, no corks flew farther than 50 feet. Based on this result, the team declared the myth busted. As an extra demonstration, the team set up a Gatling gun-like rig to rotate the bottles over a burner and launch their corks straight ahead. Grant, dressed in a fire suit, stood in front of the rig and took several direct hits.

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Episode 163: Bubble Trouble Thu, 28 Apr 2011 02:00:18 +0000 Buster

It is impossible to swim in bubbling water.


In a small-scale test of buoyancy in bubbling water, Adam built a crude hydrometer, weighted to float at a certain height, and placed it in a fishtank full of water. The device did not sink when air bubbled in, but he and Jamie thought that this was the result of upward water currents. Jamie then built a larger bubbler to place inside a 10,000-gallon tank (previously used in the whirlpool myths). Adam donned a wetsuit and carried enough weights to leave only his head above the surface. When the bubbler was turned on, the upwelling pushed him to one side, where he sank in a downward current.

In order to eliminate these wall effects, Adam and Jamie built a 4-by-16-foot bubbler to place at the bottom of a swimming pool. After they added weights to keep the rig from floating up, Adam tried to swim across the pool and back through the bubbles. The trip proved difficult at 25% power and impossible at 100%. Adam and Jamie classified the myth as plausible, but for a different reason from the one expected — water currents holding the swimmer at the surface, rather than a loss of buoyancy due to the air bubbles.

If a stick of dynamite is attached to an arrow and shot into a tree, it will split the tree down the middle when it explodes.


To simulate a real tree, the Build Team dug a hole in the ground and stood a 20-foot, 6,000-pound (pine log in it. They set up a remote-controlled rig to fire an arrow fitted with a binary explosive charge equivalent to a stick of dynamite. Tests with a single and double charge failed to damage the log, so they stuck an arrow into the wood by hand and attached six charges. This attempt also did not result in a split; Grant commented that the placement of the explosive outside the tree surface prevented its force from being channeled into the wood.

Declaring the myth busted, the team did some small-scale tests with different explosives and placement techniques. A TNT charge drilled into the trunk shredded it at the blast point, while an ANFO charge laid in grooves cut along the wood grain caused some degree of splitting.

In one last full-scale test, the team chose a 100-foot Ponderosa pine and fitted it with 25 pounds of ANFO, laid in grooves cut near the core. The resulting blast tore the tree into hundreds of pieces.

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Episode 162: Running on Water Thu, 21 Apr 2011 02:00:19 +0000 Buster

It is possible to run across the surface of a body of water using a combination of footwear and running technique. (Inspired by a viral video.)


Adam and Jamie found a lake similar to the one shown in the video and laid a strip of turf to its edge in order to ensure good traction. Wearing the same type of water-repellent shoes, they each made several runs but wound up in the water each time. They brought in Olympic sprinter Wallace Spearmon, thinking that increased speed would help, but he also failed.

After studying film footage of the so-called “Jesus Christ lizard” (Basiliscus basiliscus) running on water, Adam and Jamie decided to build separate footwear rigs to duplicate its leg movements. They called in Jessica Fortunato, a trained acrobat and gymnast, and had her try both rigs: Adam’s with hinged foot platforms and a long tail, and Jamie’s with concave foot cups and an outrigger frame held in front. She was unable to stay above water, whether unaided or using either of the rigs.

At this point, Adam and Jamie declared the myth busted and built a submersible bridge to replicate the results. After camouflaging it and setting up the camera at a particular angle, both were able to run across the surface until they went off the end of the bridge.

For the following myths, the Build Team investigated the ability of everyday objects to reduce the likelihood of injury or death from an explosion. They began by detonating a 3-pound (1.4 kg) charge of C-4, with rupture disks at various distances set to burst at 13 psi (90 kPa) (injury) and 75 psi (517 kPa) (instant death). Distances of 10 and 20 ft (3.0 and 6.1 m) were found to be the thresholds of the death and injury zones, respectively, due to the blast shock wave.

For each object tested, they placed it at 10 and 20 feet, with rupture disks and a foam-cutout figure (to gauge shrapnel injuries) protected by it.

A wooden table could protect you from the shock wave of a bomb.


The tables were placed on their side, facing the blast, and the disks and figures were set behind them. Both figures were broken in the blast. The 10 ft (3.0 m) table was destroyed, but the disks did not burst. At 20 ft (6.1 m), the table was heavily damaged; the “injury” disk did not burst, but did buckle noticeably. The team noted that shrapnel from the splintered table might cause injury or death independently of the shock wave.

A car could protect you from the shock wave of a bomb.


The cars were placed to present one side toward the blast, with the disks and figures behind the front end. No injury was noted at 20 feet, while only the “injury” disk burst at 10 feet.

A metal dumpster could protect you from the shock wave of a bomb.


The disks and figures were placed inside the dumpsters. The team observed the same results as for the car and noted that the side toward the blast showed some deformation.

A cinderblock wall could protect you from the shock wave of a bomb.


Since the team only had enough time and materials to build one wall, they moved the blast site as needed to achieve the 10- and 20-foot distances. The 20-foot test was performed first; the wall stood, and the disk deformed but did not burst. After the wall was repaired, the 10-foot blast collapsed it and crushed the figure. However, both disks remained intact.

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Episode 161: Blue Ice Thu, 14 Apr 2011 02:00:12 +0000 Buster

By intentionally causing a gas leak in a room and inserting a magazine in a toaster, it is possible to cause a large explosion (as shown in the movie Bourne Supremacy).


Adam and Jamie began by placing magazines of various thicknesses in toasters and timing how long they took to catch fire. The thinnest and fastest to burn, similar to common newsprint or comic books, took roughly 2 minutes to catch a flame rather than the 20-30 seconds observed in the film. Small-scale tests with mixtures of methane and air indicated that a methane level as low as 6% (the bottom end of its flammability range) could trigger a noticeable explosion.

For full-scale testing, they built a replica of Jason Bourne’s apartment, including the toaster, magazine, and methane supply. Their first attempt at an explosion, using the circumstances shown in the movie, did not give any significant reaction, and the myth was declared busted. A second attempt with a higher gas concentration and a fireplace starter log as the ignition source led to an energetic fire, but no explosion. Adam and Jamie made one last attempt, using enough methane to achieve a 9% concentration (the center of the flammability range) and a set of fans and diffuser hoses to mix the gas and air thoroughly. This time, they were able to get one wall to blow out and set the apartment on fire.

If the contents of an airplane toilet are jettisoned mid-flight, they can freeze into a solid mass capable of inflicting severe damage upon hitting the ground.


To set the stage for this myth, Kari spoke to an airplane technician and learned that although a pilot cannot dump the toilet mid-flight, the contents could leak out if multiple valves and seals failed.

For their tests, the Build Team made a small section of an airplane fuselage, including a lavatory service outlet (designed to suffer a slow or sudden leak, as needed). They took this rig to a wind tunnel at NASA designed for high-altitude simulation (including low air-temperature). When the toilet was dumped all at once, the fluid quickly atomized in the wind, leaving only a thin film to freeze on the fuselage. However, a slow leak allowed the ice to build up into a large mass that did not break loose until the rig “descended” (i.e. the air temperature in the wind tunnel was increased) to 12,000 feet (3,650 meters).

To determine the ability of such a chunk of ice to survive a fall to earth, Kari dropped a 35-pound (16 kg) block of ice from an airplane at 12,000 feet. Grant and Tory tracked it from the ground while Kari skydived. The block remained intact and embedded itself deeply upon impact, prompting the team to declare the myth confirmed, although unlikely due to the multiple mechanical failures needed to achieve the result.

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