Follow TV Tropes

Archived Discussion Main / MythBusters

Go To

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Describe Myth Busters Discussion here.

Nlpnt From the Google cache; Something seems to be wrong with our Death Ray. I'm standing right in it, and I'm not dead yet. — Jamie Hyneman I reject your reality and substitute my own! — Adam Savage Paramedics are... nowhere to be found. — Tory Belleci These will explode, these will melt, this will kill you — this is great. — Kari Byron I hope that my head doesn't explode. — Grant Imahara

Gonzo pop culture meets off-beat science as Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman — two special effects guys with nearly thirty years of experience between them — take on urban legends, ancient myths and tall tales of all kinds to debunk (or confirm!) them. With the help of their crack team of smart-ass builders (Kari Byron, Tory Belleci and Scottie Chapman, who was replaced by Grant Imahara when she left the show), as well as crack crash-test dummy Buster, Adam and Jamie meticulously take apart popular myths ranging from the legend of Archimedes' solar "death ray" to "free energy" to the most common Hollywood exaggerations (exploding cars, the knockback from a bullet). They render each myth down to its component elements, then apply a goofball scientific rigor to reproducing those elements. And when a legend fails to pan out, as it often does, they usually escalate matters to the point where the legend's results do occur — usually at a point far beyond anything that is likely to happen on its own or "by accident". Usually these escalations involve entertaining explosions (such as the one in a March 2005 episode which effectively vaporized a cement mixer truck). Not every myth is busted, though — they are happy (although frequently surprised) when they prove that a story, however wild, is at the very least plausible. In "Big Rig Myths", they managed to confirm all three myths, which is practically unheard of.

The show has a geek-chic atmosphere that is almost irresistable. Part of the attraction is the Odd Couple pairing of Adam and Jamie, with their frequent jibes and competitions. Part of it is the kind of "intellectual Three Stooges" vibe that the build team emits. And a large part of it is a combined mechanical imagination worthy of Rube Goldberg (they once built not one, not two, but three different machines designed to drop buttered toast on the floor; and for Christmas 2006 they built a literal Rube Goldberg machine to celebrate the holiday). But a great deal of it is the humor and wacky sense of fun with which they all go about their mission. (The fact that Scottie and Kari are two of the most attractive genuinely intelligent women on TV doesn't hurt with the male viewership either...)

This show provides examples of: Blown Across The Room (subverted) Brand X Dont Try This At Home Edited For Syndication Education Through Pyrotechnics Edutainment Show Every Car Is A Pinto (subverted) Failsafe Failure: Straight: Usually equipment built by the Mythbusters themselves. The radio-controlled real cars are supposed to apply brakes when they get out of radio range. Subverted: More than one "Busted" verdict has come about due to the presence of failsafes on equipment such as washing machines and elevators, and the sometimes absurd measures needed to defeat them in order to replicate the myth's results. Firing In The Air A Lot (tested) Five Man Band Hard Work Montage Mascot: Buster, the crash test dummy Doubles as a sort of Butt Monkey, of science! My Car Hates Me (substitute R/C car, rocket, rig, death ray etc...) Odd Couple Parental Bonus ("Santa's little helper" in a Christmas Special to refer to Viagra) Pixellation Power Trio (The build team, when they handle a myth on their own) Powerwalk Promotion To Opening Titles Reality Show Truth In Television Two Lines No Waiting Urban Legends Wrench Wench (Kari and Scottie, in a real-world incarnation)

Tropes Examined By The Myth Busters

Seanette: Changed Adam's quote to one I think is funnier. :-)

Silent Hunter: Changed Tori's because, while funny, they do have paramedics most of the time.

HeartBurn Kid: Changed Grant's, because I'm re-watching the snow show and that is the best line ever. Here's the original:

I hope that my head doesn't explode. — Grant Imahara

Fast Eddie: Pulled the quotes. They are just examples. The article has a solid lead which should not be buried. //later: on second thought, I just moved them down to their own section.

KJMackley: I did some work on the Five-Man Band page and then watched the show afterward, and I realized that the show follows that pattern pretty well. It might be Square Peg, Round Trope, which is why I bring it here first.
  • The Hero- Jamie (Owner of M-5, the first person to be brought on for the show)
  • The Lancer- Adam (Jamie brought in Adam as co-host specifically for Lancer duties)
  • The Smart Guy- Grant (Electronics wiz, big on the equipment and robot building, also a bit of a geek.)
    • Grant's predecessor Scottie was also a "Iron Maiden," her responsibility was to repair Buster after all the crap they put him through. They said her metalworking skills were invaluable to the team.
  • The Big Guy- Tori (Used as the muscle, he is the most genuinely athletic of the group. When it came time for a live test-subject, Tori is usually the one to do the dangerous stuff.)
  • The Chick- Kari (This is probably obvious. Certainly has her place with a lot of artistic things they need done, but she is usually there for the female perspective.)

Inkblot: The quotes are taking over the rest of the page.

HeartBurn Kid: Axed this:

  • Forgive me for thinking that a prank that could have seriously injured or killed Adam isn't particularly funny.
    • injured? maybe; seriously injured or killed? no way. The thing about that transformer is that it was high voltage, but low amperage, as electric fences are only meant to deter. Amperage is what usually kills when it comes to electricity. Voltage can cause serious burns, but only in the millions of volts, which can only be generated by a lightning bolt.
    • It might not have injured him, but such a charge seriously hurts. It's a major "Funny Aneurysm" Moment when you realise just how shocked (no pun intended) Adam was by this betrayal of trust.

1: Natter 2: Adam was never in any real danger; an electric fence transformer will sting like hell, but it won't hurt you in the long term. Hell, this wasn't even the first time Adam's been jolted by that particular fence transformer; he got shocked by it in the third rail revisit (when he peed on the electric fence).

Idler: Do we have a trope for what happened in the snowplough episode when everything possible went wrong, even more so than in normal Mythbusters episodes, to the point where they started saying that the plough was cursed and took great pleasure in demolishing it?

KJMackley: With the long list of dialogue quotes moved to the quotes page, I felt it was okay to put a header quote back at the top.

Willbyr: Is there a trope for when people appear on a TV show independently of each other and then appear on another show to work together in completely different circumstances? I was specifically thinking about how Adam, Jamie, and Grant all appeared on Robot Wars and now are working together on Myth Busters.

Freezer: Removed Tim Taylor Technology. The idea of that trope is that things work better with MORE POWER! When the Myth Busters do it, it's generally with the intent on making it fail and/or explode. That's No Kill Like Overkill.

KJMackley: I moved a few Catchphrase quotes to Memetic Mutation because it isn't really a catch phrase if they only say it once on the show. If it becomes a popular quote because of the Opening Sequence it fits better as Memetic Mutation.

Antigone2: Given that "Cool Hat" and "Nice Hat" lead to the exact same page, is there some reason we need both entries on the list?

Antigone2: The "Growing The Beard" entry needs a ton of work to salvage it. The first season of MB involved testing 2-3 myths per episode, same as the current format — I think they've only done three episodes with only a single myth, and none of them were first season. And the "Octopus Pregnancy" example belongs over in Edited for Syndication; if you look at the DVD release, you can see the full test.

KJMackley: Sometimes when you write something it doesn't come across the exact way you planned. I rewrote the example to focus on what I meant. The pacing of the show in the first season was more along the lines of one or two myths, with a lot of talking and interacting with the people who are providing the fuselage/rubber suits/etc. and then maybe some mini-myths along the way. The octopus egg myth was meant as just an example of how slow it was. Later seasons cut down on the chatting with local junkyard owners and with the build team they were able to test more myths per episode (admittedly much of it is taking the core myth and then breaking it down into seperate components before testing the core myth as a whole).

Mustango: What is the one myth that lacked the "kernel of truth", anyway?
  • Willbyr: My guess is that it's the "pyramid power" myth, the one that Adam commented "No more oogie-boogie myths, please" near the end.
    • SynjoDeonecros: Actually, it was the Killer Washing Machine myth; none of the specified parts of the myth could even remotely come close to happening. I believe the "No more oogie-boogie myths" complaint was made because too many people were requesting them, and they usually came with untestable parts to them (like "mystical energies", "astrological alignments", etc.).

SynjoDeonecros: Does anyone know what myth the video linked to by Censor Steam was supposed to come from? I don't recognize it, and they don't say on the website.
Mark Lungo: I think the current page pic should be changed to one featuring the build team as well as Adam and Jamie. I'm kind of partial to this pic. Anyone agree—or disagree?
  • Willbyr - I don't have a problem with the current pic, but if the consensus is to change it, I think that one would be a good pic to use.
    • Mark Lungo: Thanks, Willbyr! Patiently waiting for consensus...
      • I don't know how much my opinion counts for, but I do like the newer pic.
      • Mark Lungo: Okay. I'm moving the old pic here for preservation.

Malchus: Nuked the following because the troper was not paying attention to the show. The scale issue was addressed, and only reinforces the verdict. He was pulled completely by the small box in the small scale test, but that was because the small thing sank very fast. It's the speed of the sinking that determines the sucking down power, not the sheer size. The pull got considerably less the larger things got because water resistance means that, the bigger things get, the slower they sink. For even that small boat to pull Adam down completely, it should've sank fast enough to hit bottom in less that two seconds. It would break the very laws of physics for anything that huge to sink that fast, let along a larger vessel.

  • Wall Banger - The team tested the myth of being sucked underwater by a rapidly sinking boat. On a small boat, Adam was sucked down... for a bit. They declared it busted. Apparently, they forgot about the scale of things...

    • Actually, wrong. Sinking ships do produce suction as internal compartments flood since water is pulled in from around them to displace the air (Lightoller's testimony included that he was sucked inside the Titanic twice as she sank, for example) and the test ignored the Square-Cube Law regarding this; there simply wasn't enough volume to the tiny ship they tested the "myth" with to produce the phenomenon on any appreciable scale.

    • Except the myth was to test the suction on the people staying on the deck on the last minute, or swimming in close proximity. Suction from internal compartment flooding would require someone swimming close enough to open areas to feel the pull. And since when was subjective eyewitness testimony taken as more reliable than scientific investigation?

      • Um, if you were on the deck as the ship was going down you'd be sucked into any compartment currently flooding as you touched the water, assuming one was nearby, and when you're dealing with huge internal spaces all you have to be is swimming close. And mythbusters is most certainly not "scientific investigation," the experiments are designed to be watchable, not follow the scientific method.

  • Malchus: Sorry, what? As the ship was sinking, everyone was staying on the very aft end of the ship. Far from any flooding compartments.

    • Stop you there: no, they weren't. People were jumping off right from the minute it was clear the ship was doomed; out of simple panic, being shoved off by crowds, or trying to avoid things like the collapsing funnel. A ship may still have interior spaces that are empty of water while other parts are flooded; the flooded areas increase the weight of the vessel to where it violates Archimedes' Principle, thus sinks. As it does so the empty areas fill, this causes suction as water is pulled inside. Ships do not flood uniformly and evenly unless they're being deliberately scuttled or have all internal bulkheads open for whatever reason. The Titanic's second officer not only knew he was pulled inside, he also correctly identified why it was happening; it was top-down flooding of unevacuated spaces through the ship's ventilation system as the hull went under. There's no way the controlled sinking of a tiny boat [or your oversimplification of the flooding of an enormous one; the flooding was occuring top-down as well as bottom-up throughout the sinking, because a ship kinda has holes all over the superstructure] comes even close to debunking the informed testimony of a man who'd served with ships since the age of thirteen. Nevermind the Titanic's fourth officer reported suction too.

      • Again, what's with all of this appeal to authority nonsense? Fine, he served on a ship for all those years, and I will not dispute his expertise on handling a ship. But unless all those years also involved being stuck on several sinking ships time and time again and getting sucked down time and time again, then it's worth bupkiss to this discussion. Fine, I admit the location of the people was an oversimplification. However, eyewitness testimony cannot be taken as Word of God on its own because even the best expert can be unreliable under stressful circumstances.

    • As opposed to a couple of engineers screwing around with a tiny boat for a pop-science show, who can declare something a 'myth' and implicitly state that all the eyewitnesses who reported suction were lying, much as they did with Charles Hathcock over scope shots or the banana peel rifle barrel because they didn't bother to figure out what actually cases that? I imagine someone sucked inside a sinking ship would have a pretty vivid idea that they were in fact no longer on the surface of the water floating around. Call it a hunch.

      • Ah, so the old "engineers aren't "real scientists" gambit, as well as the old "it's just a pop science show, lol". Because they don't know jack about science, right? And they pull everything out of their ass, don't they? Nice no true scottsman as well hasty generalizations.

      • Along with two other examples where they didn't bother to identify what they were actually testing and dismissed real phenomena as myths. I see you missed those.

  • Which is why courts always demand other evidence than just plain eyewitness testimony. For example, for years after the sinking, it was debated whether the ship split in half, or sank in one piece. Testimonies varied, including that amongst the crew themselves and amongst those on the Titanic up to the last moment—with some claiming they could feel it splitting or not depending on their account. What does that mean? it means even the crew's testimony is not iron-clad.

  • Ah, so they must be wrong about everything else! Nice hasty generalisation you've got going on there. Also, I would point out that if courts weren't willing to rely on witness testimony, it would be impossible to convict anyone of harassment.

    • Did I say that they must be wrong about everything else? No, I only targeted their testimonies of feeling the suction, as what one feels and the memory of what one feels during a disaster may be exacerbated or exaggerated by the stress of the situation. This is well-documented by several studies. And eyewitness evidence is the only way to convict people of harassment because there's no way to get forensic proof of fondling. However, should there be hard evidence that the suspect couldn't have done it (like, say, security cam footage showing the harasser clearly somewhere else when the claimed harassment supposedly occured), then the eywitness testimony is tossed. So, no, still not reliable and your attempt to equate two very different cases of eyewitness testimony is a false comparison.

    • Ah, so Lightoller only thought he was underwater near a part of the ship he specifically identified. Gotcha.

  • Besides, if you want to get into eyewitness testmony, then how could you forget the testimony of one Charles Jonghin, the Titanic's head baker. He claimed that that he held onto the stern railing as it went under. He said that he stepped off and his hair didn't even get wet, and no mention of getting sucked under with the ship.

  • No, actually he didn't. He said he didn't believe his hair got wet. Not that it's a particular surprise; by the time the stern went under, most of the inside of the ship would already have flooded; if anything, there would be upward force at that stage as remaining air was forced out of the ship like a piston. Take a look here for a discussion of the sinking and why suction was indeed involved in it; note one of those who talks about how suction occurred is a physics PhD. Your mental model of the sinking is massively out of line with what actually happened according to reliable eyewitnesses who were there and in one case had it happen to them.

    • Ah, I see, so when one witness' testimony doesn't line up with your own, it's immediately subjective. When it does, it's unassailable proof. Nice cherry-picking.

    • No, it's not. As pointed out in the link I gave (and in the part of my reply you ignored), there is no reason both accounts can't be true. The sinking ship that pulled Lightoller under was a very different object in terms of physics to the stub that Jonghin found himself on top of. Two men, two different experiences, but neither necessarily false. It's the blind men / elephant deal.

  • So, here we are, actual Titanic survivor who claimed that he stayed on the ship until the very least minute and felt no suction. so, again, bringing eyewitness testimony into the argument is practically useless, as there's enough conflicting testimonies to keep throwing as counterpoints to each other with no real conclusiveness. And even with the differences in flooding, that makes no difference at all to any suction. The moment most of the ship slips down the waves, especially one split down the entire middle, most of the compartments would already be flooded. the pockets of air would be intermittently distributed throughout the interior of the vessel. An all-sucking influx of water needs a large amount of volume suddenly being displaced for water. By the time most of its already under, most of that has already been displaced, and the pockets will fill up not as one, but unevenly. Sorry, but that kind of uneven flooding just proves the point further. There needs to be some sustained suction to pull someone down to the bottom. The myth was that the suction would pull you down to the bottom along with the ship. If there were survivors who actually claimed to have felt the force of the suction, then their very testimony already busts the myth since they clearly didn't go to the bottom but lived to tell the tale.

  • Lightoller's testimony was that the second time he would indeed have gone under if a blast of air (thought to have been from water hitting a boiler) had not blown him back to the surface. And your argument here seems to be 'if anyone survived it, it couldn't have killed anyone.' Talk about your non sequitur.

    • Yes, and again, all we have is his testimony. And even that mentions then he was swimming in an area close or above one of the the ventilator (swimming toward the crow's nest, as I recall. Which means well near the vent sites of the boat), so the rush would carry him as it filled. Again, how does this rush while filling carry him to the bottom again, as it won't last? The very blast off air also supports my point of uneven flooding (thus, non-continuous suction) because it's a ventilation shaft, some of the displaced air also goes up and out through it (and this is one interpretation of his testimony other than the lucky boiler), and the flow is interrupted. Interrupted flow, inconstant sucking. And how does this address the very myth being tested that being anywhere near the ship when it goes down would pull a person down? The myth wasn't being "on certain parts of a boat" when it goes down will also cause you to be pulled down. Your entire argument has always been about the flooding, which is moving the goal posts from the myth being tested. And the very testimony you tout as proof only shows that any suction at all occurs not throughout the whole ship, but only on flooding sites. How does that overturn the busted verdict of the myth being anywhere, not on certain spots where there'll be some strong water flow" near or on the boat will cause you to be pulled under?

    • The point was that it was indeed a Wall Banger to ignore the Square-Cube Law in connection with the experiment; anyone with half a brain should be able to tell their tiny boat wasn't going to even vaguely approximate the forces involved in the sinking of a huge one, and doesn't fulfil any sane criteria of a fair (they did all of zero repeats), accurate or representative test. Once you're pulled inside the ship by top-down flooding, you're in very serious trouble; you're in a medium where your eyes can't focus, which means it's blind luck if you get out or get drown and end up being pulled to the bottom inside the hull. So a sinking ship can indeed pull people to the bottom, as it nearly did to Lightoller.

It is also from from where the ship broke, near the middle, so most of the rushing water will fill there. So, no, your scenario doesn't work. And you seem to be under the impression that the sudden rush of water would be an omni-directional, all-consuming forces. Water does not work that way. In a bathtub, maybe. But scaled large with a massive volume? No. If you will refer to the admittedly crude diagram below, Most of the on rushing water after the break would be coming in from where the break is (marked in red). That's where most of the pulling force would be, and even then it would not be the intense maelstrom you'd imagine. The very shape of the compartments and the volume of the air means that the water wouldn't instantly rush in and displace the air like that. That means, while the water rushing in is fast, it's not maelstrom fast. Even if it was, the people are all the way over at the end (marked in green). By the time that reaches the water, most of the compartments would already be filled, so there's even less force in the rushing water. Also, even after the ship snapped the two halves still took quite some time to sink, which means that as fast as the water filled the compartments, it's not the tidal rush needed to suck people under and keep them under (which was the very myth being tested). Also, once the entire ship slips under, that means nearly all the compartments are filled with water, which means no more water coming in, which means no pulling force from the flooding however weak. Any pulling force remaining once the ship is under would have to be from the disturbances it causes as it displaces water while it sinks. To pull a person under and keep them under, the sinking ship would have to rely on the water vortices it causes as it passes through the water (see second diagram).

  • Malchus:A faster sinking object (red) would produces stronger vortices as it displaces an object much faster, and said vortex would pull down anything within the area of effect. This was seen in Adam's scale test with the weighted box in the pool, as said box hit bottom in less than two seconds. The sheer speed made a vortex that pulled Adam along with the box. A slower sinking object (green) wouldn't displace water as quickly, which would mean the disturbance behind t wouldn't swirl as much, which means any vortex pull would be rather weak. This brings me back to my original criticism: a ship cannot sink fast enough to cause vortices with sufficient pull. No ship, not even the smaller ones, can sink to a harbor's bottom in less than two seconds. Too much water resistance (which also increases with depth due to pressure) and too much surface are for said resistance to act on. The Titanic has way more mass and are than a small ship, which means a lot of resistance from the water as it sinks, meaning it would be impossible to sink fast enough to produce such a strong vortex. It may seem fast due to sheer size, but it is relatively languid compared to a sinking weighted box.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: