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MythBusters Special 11: Young Scientists Special

Air Date: April 26, 2008

In this episode, winners of Discovery’s “Young Scientist Challenge” competition tested environmental myths with the MythBusters team.

Do greenhouse gases really increase the amount of heat absorbed by air?

confirmed

Airtight containers containing added carbon dioxide or methane measured one degree centigrade hotter than containers with normal air after being heated by a hot lamp.

Are electric cars more sluggish than gasoline-powered cars?

busted

Adam, Jaime, and Brandon (a Young Scientist Challenge winner) built and electric go-kart using lithium iron phosphate batteries and tested it against a gas go-kart. Despite weighing twice as much as the gas go-kart, the electric go-kart performed equivalently. Then they went to a professional track and watched the KillaCycle, an electric drag motorcycle, race against a stock gas motorcycle. The gas motorcycle won by a slight margin. Next the MythBusters had an X1 electric sports car race against an F430 Ferrari, and while the Ferrari’s top speed was faster, the electric car accelerated faster and won in a drag race. Finally, they had electric X1 race against a FJR50 Forumla 3 race car. While the Formula 3 car easily beat the electric car, the electric car is considered a “street car”, not a race car, and it did well enough that they proclaimed electric cars to be anything but slow.

Do cows emit greenhouse gases that could potentially damage the environment?

confirmed

Cows themselves emit methane (mostly from belching, rather than flatulence) and their feces emit a significant amount of methane while rotting. Because there are so many cows, this methane contributes significantly to the amount of methane in Earth’s atmosphere.

Can cow manure be used to help the environment?

confirmed

The methane emitted from cow manure can be used to power combustion engines. The Young Scientists helped to collect cow manure and extract methane gas from it. Grant was able to use the methane gas to power a hand lawnmower. Also, the farm where they had collected cow manure from created 90% of its electricity from its own manure-powered generator.

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3 Comments

  1. Kat:

    The structure of H2O means ice has a higher volume than water. This would mean, if all the ice in the sea melted it would not cause any rise to the water level. The volume of the ice above the water at a low density would be equal to the melted water at high density.
    Does this mean global warming causing an increase to sea levels is a myth?

    August 9, 2009 at 4:52 PM
  2. Will:

    You are quite correct, melting sea ice has no impact on sea levels at all. However, it is melting of landlocked ice that will ultimately be the issue.

    At the moment the 20cm or so rise in sea levels since the 1880s is due to thermal expansion.

    October 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM
  3. Leon Stark:

    Bovine, ovine, porcine, human, all fecal matter can be “fermented” into “natural gas”, and the remains processed into a fertilizer. It was normal for my wastewater plant to save money by using our own fuel, natural gas, to keep the digester warm.

    I had proposed the methane be used to power a generator for circulating the sludge, and the cooling water cycle as the heating for the sludge. The remaining gas could be compressed (the compressor powered off the methane powered generator) and sold to the local utility with the injection of the necessary ethyl mercaptan for odorant. Water and CO2 could be filtered off as it compresses. The facility could make plenty of money off the volume of natural gas they could provide the system, without drilling another well. They could also run cellulose to methane/ short-chain hydrocarbon/alcohol plants on the same principles if they had teh sense to. (Government in the business of carbon capture/reuse for the public good. (yeah, right!)

    December 25, 2009 at 11:05 PM

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