In the hard facts world we live in today, there is nothing better than a little rumor, an urban legend, or even a myth. This is especially true when the myth is crafted in such a way to make everyone, everywhere a possible target. But we are not a gullible race, and we shrug off many of these myths and legends and claim they could never happen. But could they?
Enter the Mythbusters. Created in 2002 by Australian writer and producer Peter Rees, Mythbusters is a science entertainment show where hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage use scientific methods to test and validate (or disprove) common myths, rumors, movie scenes and even news stories. Pretty helpful for our inner skeptics. The pilot aired in 2003, and since then, more than 160 episodes have made it to TV, each testing two or more myths during its one-hour segment.
The show uses a two-step experiment process, which was described by Savage in earlier episodes as a method to "replicate the circumstances and duplicate the results". This means for each myth, the team tries to replicate the conditions the myth requires to carry out, and if that fails to produce the result, then they create a scenario that will reproduce the results (often to spectacular effect). The process for busting a myth relies heavily on mathematical and physical calculations, crash test dummies and ballistic gelatin. The team will not, however, test paranormal myths (aliens and ghosts) since these cannot be scientifically tested, and they do not experiment on animals, although they do use livestock carcasses during some of the episodes. And if you're in the market to learn how to build explosives or rig up cars with dangerous gadgets, then this is not the show for you. For the safety of the curious viewer, all hazardous chemicals are blurred out, and all scenes that could be dangerous to the home scientist are also omitted. By the end of the show, the myths they're testing are given a result of "Busted" "Plausible" or "Confirmed."
The show itself is quite entertaining. Hosts Adam and Jamie have an excellent chemistry and the challenges they hold between themselves to prove/disprove a myth make it a delight to watch. While there are some myths I've never heard of, it is interesting to watch the team challenge the myths and legends I grew up with. Several of my favorites that have come and gone through the seasons answered such universe-altering questions like "does buttered toast always land buttered side down?"and "is shooting fish in a barrel really as easy as the proverb says?". Along with testing many sometimes questionable Hollywood scenes and providing me with answers I can accept (you know, like the speedboat that jumps off a ramp, lands back in the water and keeps going without incident?), I have started double dipping with confidence, felt safer in an elevator than I ever have, and finally accepted the fact that I cannot outsmart a bloodhound. Do not despair, fellow skeptic, the show revisits myths which have gained a large deal of attention, and are scrutinized further on suggestion of letters received from fans. Being someone who grew up in a house full of superstition and urban legend, I love to see these tall tales put to the test. The show is witty, fun, and satisfies the inner skeptic.
For more on the Mythbusters, visit http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/mythbusters/