Friday, January 8, 2016

My Top Ten Mythbusters Myths

It's the end of the line for the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters," which will end its run after fourteen seasons and nearly 250 episodes this year.  The final set of episodes will begin running this month.  This is a pretty haphazard Top Ten list because I stopped watching "Mythbusters" regularly around 2010, but that still covers an awful lot of ground.  Also, I've decided to pick favorite myths and groups of myths instead of favorite episodes (with one exception) since there was often a big discrepancy between the individual myths featured in each installment of the show.  As always, the picks below are unranked and ordered by airdate.

"Stinky Car" - The myth that got me completely hooked on "Mythbusters" was one of their earliest, where in order to test what a deteriorating corpse does to a car, Adam and Jamie sealed up two dead pig carcasses in a Corvette for two months and let nature take its course.  The extreme conditions that resulted, and the cleanup efforts required, were mesmerizing in their repulsiveness.  I loved how far the guys were willing to go in the name of science.

"Alcatraz Escape" - Adam and Jamie recreated the famous escape from Alcatraz, including a daring night trip across the San Francisco Bay in a very haphazard raft.  This myth really appealed to my inner history buff and conspiracy enthusiast, as the Mythbusters went through all the various factors that would have impeded the prisoners' escape, and all the theories about how they could have pulled it off.  This has my vote for the show's most exciting myth.

"Does a Duck's Quack Echo?" - This was a smaller, much simpler myth that aired with the Alcatraz escape, but I loved it just for the silliness of Adam and Jamie working out how to actually test the myth - how do you get a duck to quack? - and discovering a few surprises along the way.  I love how the myth initially sounded ridiculous, but it turned out there really was an interesting phenomena to be tested, and we got to see some good science (and cute duckies) in action.

"Cement Mix-Up" - There have been bigger and louder, but this myth still has my favorite of the show's explosions.  "Mythbusters" developed a reputation for gratuitously blowing things up over the years, but this one didn't seem quite so gratuitous since the myth was about cleaning dried cement from a cement mixer with the use of dynamite.  Okay, so the myth didn't say anything about 380 kg of dynamite, but what's the fun of being a Mythbuster if you can't improvise a little?

"Pirate Special" - I'm making an exception to the "no episodes" rule I made above, so I can include the entirety of the double-length pirate episode that tested a bunch of different swashbuckling myths.  Half the fun of the special was watching the cast dress up in pirate gear and indulge in goofy pirate antics.  The actual myths that were tested during the episode weren't nearly as fun as the pirate obstacle course that the Build Team put Jamie and Adam through at the end.

"Underwater Car" - How do you get out of a sinking car?  The Mythbusters actually put Adam in a car in a swimming pool, and let it submerge with him inside (with emergency O2 on standby), in order to test the various methods of escape.  This is one of the few Mythbusters episodes that deals in practical, useful information the whole way through, and provides a good lesson in emergency preparedness.  I think it's especially gripping because it's something that could plausibly happen to anybody.

"Lead Balloon" - This is one of those premises for a myth that sounds silly at first - seeing if you could actually build a working lead balloon - but the payoff is spectacular.  I debated putting the similar Hindenburg myth on the list, but I went with the lead balloon because there was so much more involved with getting this one to work, and it really put he crew's skills and ingenuity to the test.  When the delicate lead foil cube takes flight, it's one of the best moments in Mythbusters history.

"Don't Drive Angry" - I grew to enjoy the Build Team as much as I enjoy Adam and Jamie.  This is one of my favorite myths featuring them, because it gets a lot of mileage out of their various little personality quirks.  While testing whether driving angry affects gas mileage, Tory and Grant are first given relaxation treatments before being sent through a test course.  Then, they're tortured with various unpleasant  stimuli - including making Grant's feet touch fish - before the next round.  It's hysterical.

"Phone Book Friction" - I love the way that this one escalates. It turns out that simply interleaving the pages of two 800 page phone books creates a bond between them so strong, it doesn't seem like anything can get them apart.  The Mythbusters prove that there is a limit, but they have to go to some considerable extremes to do it.  They bring out the big tanks for this myth, literally.  

"You Can't Polish Poop" - And finally, there's the poop-polishing myth, which I love because it's so delightfully absurd and Adam and Jamie get so into it.  This one, is short, sweet, and produces some very shiny poop.


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