Fun with science

telly talk

At one time, people believed that the earth was at the centre of the universe. Nicholas Copernicus proposed the heliocentric theory to dispel this myth, and Galileo was persecuted while trying to convince the people.

Luckily today, dispelling myths is easier than in those times. Discovery Science network brings us a scientific programme which is at once relevant and entertaining, called Mythbusters. This programme is dedicated to exploring various myths — either negating or confirming them. Is it possible to do what Rajinikanth did in Robot/Endhiran and catch a bullet in your teeth? It is hardly feasible for us to find out. Could yodelling cause an avalanche on snowy mountains? We don’t want to spend the time, money and energy to find out, but we are still curious.

Enter Mythbusters’ hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage along with their assistants Tory Belleci, Kari Byron and Grant Imahara. They devise a number of scientific experiments that often use themselves or a crash-test dummy named Buster to test various theories and hypotheses. Thanks to their intuitive thinking and gleeful inquisitiveness, surprising results emerge, as well as satisfying explosions, more often than not.

In an interview, Grant Imahara, one of the hosts of the show, shared some of their methods and ‘spectacular’ experiences. “Our ideas for the myths come from all over the place. We do our own research. These ideas can come from like people that we meet (a lot of times people will come up to us on the street with their ideas), or friends of ours will e-mail us,” he says, when asked where their ideas come from. However, a lot of the myths they choose to work on come from the Discovery Science website where fans submit their ideas and discuss myths among themselves. They also have a full-time staff of researchers that looks up the Internet and other sources to come up with new ideas and develop them.

Once they get their ideas, they use their intuitive sense of science and just basic curiosity to work on them. As Grant puts it, “You don’t really need to know rocket science to do what we do.” Their main skills are curiosity and interest in the world around them. When they come upon situations that are outside of their expertise, they do call upon rocket scientists to help with rocket science, so there is never really a problem. “You don’t have to be experts in every single thing, you just have to have a good sense of the science, and then if there are specific categories that we need help in, we can always find someone to help us,” he says.

The Mythbusters are truly explosive. But is it really dangerous? Once, they tested out a myth — Creamer Cannon — which called for putting non-dairy creamer into a tube and firing it up into the air to create a fireball. They got a couple of 100 pounds of non-dairy creamer and a giant air cannon with a bunch of flares for the ignition. Grant describes it vividly: “And we fired this thing off, and nothing happened for the first second or two and then it erupted into this giant wall of flame, and at that moment we realised that we were probably standing a little too close, so we kind of ran away from that. We weren’t in any danger, but it definitely felt like we were in a large amount of danger.” They also did a test to see whether it was better to thrash around or play dead in shark-infested waters. Well, you get the point.

Grant’s favourite episodes are the ones in which you don’t expect the outcome. For example, in the episode Homemade Diamonds, they created an explosion for homemade diamonds with 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fuel. The explosion was huge, creating a crater in the ground big enough for the entire crew to stand in.

And do they ever have fun? Yes, there are parts which are not as exciting as others, but they get to shoot guns, blow things up and do all sorts of crazy experiments. “A lot of times people will come up to me on the street and say, “Wow, you’re a mythbuster. You must have the greatest job in the world,” says Grant.

So, if you are insatiably curious about science and would like to see grown-up kids playing with explosions and having fun, Mythbusters is the programme for you. It is on every night at 8 pm, on Discovery Science. Have fun!

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