Special 12: Viewer Special the Threequel

Air Date: November 19, 2008

It is possible to use living bamboo as a form of torture because it will slowly pierce human skin and then grow through the body.


Because this experiment would last several days and the subject would be exposed to the sun, Adam and Jamie decided they did not want to use an animal carcass. First they used a force gauge to determine how much pressure was needed to puncture the skin of animal flesh. They discovered that it took the same amount of force to pierce a torso made out of ballistic gelatin. Next they planted bamboo shoots in a greenhouse constructed on the M5 roof, and suspended the gel torso over the bamboo. After only three days, a couple of bamboo shoots had pierced the torso’s back. However, the bamboo died before making it all the way through the torso, apparently because because the sun melted the gel and it poisoned the plants. To fix this problem, they made a more sophisticated torso with ballistic gel inside mannequin shell with holes for the bamboo to enter. The bamboo grew right through the torso and rose to a height of about ten feet. Both Adam and Jaime agreed this would be extremely painful for a person to endure and declared the myth plausible.

Alkali metals dropped into a bathtub filled with water will create a huge explosion.


Tory, Grant and Kari went to the Alameda County bomb range to test the myth, which is featured in an episode of the British TV show Brainiac: Science Abuse. The Brainiac experiment purported that two grams of rubidium or cesium dropped into a bathtub filled with water would cause hand grenade-like explosion. However, the MythBusters could not recreate the rubidium or cesium explosions, despite using 25 grams. Instead of an explosion, the chemical reaction caused a brief flame, and a release of hydrogen gas before fizzling out. The team also tried two other alkali metals, sodium and potassium. They dropped 2.5 kilograms (5.5 lb) of each metal into a bathtub. The reactions were violent enough to crack the bathtub, but not nearly as powerful as a hand grenade, so the myth was declared busted. The discrepancies between the MythBusters and Brainiac results arose from forged results; the Brainiac staff has admitted to using actual explosives create more spectacular programming.

St. Bernard rescue dogs carry casks of brandy because the alcohol enables a hypothermic person to survive longer.


To test this myth, Adam and Jamie swallowed internal thermometers which contained tiny transmitters that sent their core body temperature to a digital display. They also used a thermographic camera to record the temperature of each others’ face and hands. After recording their temperatures at M5, they went to a frozen food warehouse and sat in a room kept at 0 °F (−18 °C). Not long after entering in the room, they started feeling the heat leave their extremities and measured their temperatures again. They discovered that while their faces and hands were indeed much colder, their core body temperatures were actually higher than when they were outside the freezer. They then called in Bob, a St. Bernard carrying a cask of brandy. Adam and Jamie drank the brandy and measured their temperatures again. They discovered their face and hands were warmer but their core body temperatures were dropping fast. Adam and Jamie declared the myth busted for this reason. They did, however, find some positive effects from drinking the brandy: the alcohol caused their blood vessels to widen, resulting in more blood going to the extremities, and lowering the risk of getting frostbite. They also reported that they felt a lot better after drinking. In conclusion, they reasoned that if rescue was imminent, it would be a good idea to drink the brandy, but if rescue was uncertain, it would be a bad idea to drink alcohol because it would make you die more quickly. They also noted that the phenomenon of St. Bernards roaming the mountains with casks of brandy is in itself a myth.

Pianos will explode if set on fire as the tension holding the strings in place is released.


At a bomb range, Tory, Grant and Kari placed some firewood under a grand piano and set it on fire. Instead of exploding, the piano slowly burned. The MythBusters found that the piano’s disintegration did not cause the strings to pop; instead the frame and strings expanded from the heat, which slowly released the stored energy over a long period of time rather than all at once in a sudden explosion.


  1. Priscilla says:

    since the piano did NOT explode when it was burned because the strings expanded instead of retracting in the heat, would the piano explode when frozen?

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  2. Litton says:

    That’s precisely what I was thinking when Tori was giving his schpiel.

  3. Logak says:

    Priscilla: no, because the freezing would result in contraction of the frame and stings, with the same result of dissipating any energy from the stress.

    • Niall Mccafferty says:

      If there was a fire then the sprinkler system kicked in there maybe contraction again and maybe ping or possibly back to original tension

  4. leidan says:

    the bamboo experiment was not credible because they didnt account for the inner part of a human, such as the bones

    • this.self.thing says:

      They mentioned that in the episode, they’re assuming that anyone interested in actually using this as a means of torture would know to position the person over the bamboo such that it would miss the ribs.

    • Steve says:

      Sort of silly, I think, Leidan. If there were a bone ‘plate’ in a human body to grow through… yeah, then a plausible question. but to put the bamboo below your rib cage for example… or even at your rib cage.. .the shoot could flex a little bit to go around a rib bone.

    • D. Devil's Advocate, Esq. says:

      A bamboo shoot growing through the intercostal muscles between you ribs would be just like a massage. Not to mention the delightful tickle on your lungs or, if you’re really lucky, your heart.

  5. Faustine says:

    Bamboo is credible since it was a torture used in Asia.

  6. dan says:

    the metals wher not creditable because the metal in the original show whas submerged and thers whas not

  7. Victor says:

    In the explosion Piano everyone in thinking the wires would snap and explode. This is imposible due to how a piano is constructed. The tuning pins are embeded in wood. The wood would fail to hold the pins before the wires would fail. In every burned out piano I’ve seen, the wires was intact.

  8. BrianiacLover says:

    brainiac is forged. you need real explosives to do what they do (they actually blew up the tub with tnt, whereas mythbusters tried to do it with only metals).

    and the bamboo grows around your rib bones, but you’d be dead a day or two before it got that high.

  9. Daniel Rex says:

    This episode just aired on free-to-air in Australia (SBS channel) and I found the chemistry of Group 1 metals very interesting. The “Brainiac” feature looks faked when they do Rubidium and Caesium, with even wires running from the bathtub to suggest a remotely activated charge, and comically careless handling of the metals, as well as a cover story to say they are in a dissolving vial.
    What amazes me is that the Mythbusters could get so much of the metals! AND they COULD have greatly amplified the Na and K explosions by shaving the metals into smaller pieces and using hot water (or adding a little vinegar!).

  10. jamie 2.0 says:

    If you freeze the wires not the whole piana then they must break i mean around here in winter our electricity lines break due to freezing or snow build up all the time

  11. Some random says:

    While Braniac may have forged the results of their alkali metals in water, Periodic table of videos also got a big explosion when caesium was dropped into water. Maybe not quite as big as brainiac’s, but then again they only used a small container of water.

  12. Peege says:

    The rubidium and cesium experiments work if done correctly; Mythbusters used too much metal therefore reducing the ratio of surface area to weight plus they placed the metals on the surface where the explosive effects were released mostly to the lesser medium (the air). Poor science by the Mythbusters… I note their hand-grenade composite was placed under the water too.

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