Thursday, January 06, 2011

Things I Learned From a Tour Of Mythbusters Forums

1) The reason the Mythbusters couldn't replicate the feats of a true ninja is because only a true ninja can do them. The reason that the ninja they brought in couldn't do it either is because he's not a true ninja, because true ninjas don't exist anymore, and even if they did, they wouldn't deign to appear on television because they're too busy walking on water and deflecting bullets with their mind.

2) The same is true of cowboys, only they don't deflect bullets with their mind. They fire them.

3) Despite direct evidence that a particular urban myth is impossible, it totally happened to one of the commenters and the Mythbusters just didn't properly replicate the exact conditions under which it happened. Crucial elements they left out involved the exact make/model of device, the precise angle/trajectory/velocity of its travel, and the fact that it happened on a full moon in Transylvania. Unless they retest the myth under a full moon in Transylvania, they can't call it busted.

4) The commenters always know more about guns, cars, and explosives than the Mythbusters. Every single one of them.

5) The reason that Jack Burton could shoot a lock off a door and the Mythbusters couldn't is because Jack Burton's guns gain additional speed from surfing on the sheer current of awesome that Kurt Russell radiates at all times. (Okay, that's just my explanation.)

6) The moon landing totally didn't happen. Wake up, sheeple!

7) For a show that demonstrates the basic scientific principle of submitting a hypothesis to empirical testing, Mythbusters sure attracts its share of pseudoscientists.


Jared said...

"For a show that demonstrates the basic scientific principle of submitting a hypothesis to empirical testing, Mythbusters sure attracts its share of pseudoscientists."

This is why I prefer dealing with comic book science. Even when you get some of the details wrong or deliberately fudge them to get the desired results, most of the time the audience will accept it.

magidin said...

Of course it attracts pseudoscientists. So do science departments in universities. The difference is that the latter generally just ignores them (or in extreme cases has them escorted out by security; happened to my advisor once), whereas in a forum, they get a bit of the echo chamber going.

Anonymous said...

Anywhere you pursue scientific endeavor, you attract nutjobs and detractors. The difference is how much visibility the crackpots get - and when you need to have a presence and publicity like Mythbusters, that un-edited online community angle will get you every time.

RichardAK said...

I'm not a big Mythbusters fan, but I did see an episode wherein they tested the myth that soldiers marching over a bridge in lockstep could cause the bridge to collapse if they happened to march at the particular resonance frequency of the bridge. I thought there were several problems with the way they tested this "myth."

First, they treated this as just a story that was sort of floating out there in the aether, when there are at least two documented historical bridge collapses that have been attributed, correctly or not, to this cause: the Broughton bridge collapse of 1831 and the Angers collapse of 1850. This wasn't really a myth; these were historical incidents whose causes may be subject to dispute.

Secondly, their method of testing the theory was highly flawed: they tested whether a group of people marching over a bridge in lockstep could cause it to collapse, and found that it could not, but they left off the part about marching at the bridge's particular resonance frequency. So while they built a model bridge to test the so-called myth, they never actually bothered to measure the resonance frequency of their model. So they had their model soldiers marching over the bridge, but who knows if they were anywhere close to the bridge's resonance frequency? They then declared the "myth" to have been "busted" despite this flawed test.

Now, I don't know whether the story about the causes of these bridge collapses was true or not; I'm not an engineer. And I'm not defending pseudo-scientific claims made on the internet, although it's probably an inevitable consequence of such a thoroughly populist and democratic medium. But I would say that Mythbusters itself is by no means always a paragon of the proper use of the scientific method.

John Seavey said...

I'm not saying they're perfect (they really needed two additional control blimps on their Hindenburg recreation, for example.) But...