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The Mythbusters:a Show Explaining and Testing Various Myths

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Myths are a common notion perceived as facts, even when little or no evidence supports it. While myths are limited to stories or claims that are not true, many people continue to support them for unknown reasons. In many instances, the person does not possess enough knowledge on the subject or has decided that the source was reliable. Content developers have created hundreds of shows that help educate their viewers. The creators of those shows often have a motive that may not be clear to every viewer or interpreted differently due to the viewer’s experiences. One show, “MythBusters” helps spread knowledge while dispelling myths. If you are a believer in the scientific method, the series “MythBusters” is a great show dedicated to explaining and testing various myths in a simple and often humorous manner. If you feel that all stories are true occurrences from history, then you would believe that the show is filled with camera trickery and special effects.

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Among the vast content on television is a Discovery Channel own “MythBusters.” The show features MythBusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, along with The Build Team, consisting of several additional on-screen personalities over the length of the series. In a reality style show, MythBusters uses a combination of science and ingenuity to reconstruct various myths, both past and present (Rees, 2003). The term “myth” is used loosely. They have tested folklore, conundrums, ancient mythology, idioms, phenomena, conspiracies, hidden dangers, clichés, and movie effects. At the completion of testing, the team calls each myth as busted, plausible, or confirmed (Ultimate, n.d.).

Over the course of 268 episodes, the MythBusters demonstrate that they are in no way perfect (Kuchera, 2015). Neither Jamie nor Adam fills the cliché of a boring, white lab coat scientists. Both of them gained a majority of their expertise from working in special effects. This experience helps the presentation of the show since the primary hosts appear to be everyday people, tackling experiments with little knowledge of the actual result (Mythbusters, n.d.). For instance, rather than explaining the physics behind the myth, they proceed to build a human slingshot to land on a mattress 200 yards away. The actual test confirms that this would be impractical and deadly, though they suggest that by calculating the necessary forces, a human would be killed on launch and again on impact.

The show makes science and technology entertaining (Kuchera, 2015). Most everyone on the show is energetic. The narrator not only explains additional details about each myth, he adds comic relief as well. The MythBusters frequently place themselves in the experiments to gain the best perception from their work (Mythbusters, n.d.). It is not uncommon for a test fail, spectacularly. The team attempted to make a catapult out of a boom lift, only to discover the boom barely moved when launched. They retried by elevating the entire lift. This resulted in the boom hurling a dummy down onto the pavement, while the lift also failed and came crashing down. Even though Jaime tends to be the mild-mannered one, he always promotes overdoing an experiment, especially when it comes to explosives. The team heard that cement truck drivers sometimes use dynamite to remove hardened cement from the walls of the mixing drum. They accidentally overfilled the drum, making the dense slab of concrete impenetrable for dynamite. They were able to obliterate the entire truck, using 850 pounds of explosive (Ultimate, n.d.).

MythBusters use the scientific method for conducting and evaluating their tests. In the run of a typical forty-two minute episode, there are numerous calculations occurring, though only some are shown. It is understandable that frequent calculations can confuse viewers who are trying to follow along (Zavrel, 2011). There are instances where they are necessary to confirm a myth, such as the speed of an item as captured by a high-speed camera. Other times, observations may be omitted to keep viewers engaged. While determining if yawning was contagious, it was necessary to time-lapse the footage, to demonstrate the results then moving on to other tests. Since sample sizes are important for many of the tests, the team often runs the same test repeatedly. In other tests, they measure the control before evaluating the experiment.

The show resonates with viewers because the MythBusters implement a little bit of realism in their experiments. Though safety is a common concern, they replicate a myth as best as possible, ensuring they achieve the most accurate result (Zavrel, 2011). In the spirit of the myth, they go beyond by using props related to their test. In an effort to test a rocket car, they sought the identical one used in the story. When they tried to make a water heater explode, they first installed it in a structure built to code. Even during the human slingshot experiment, they setup a chain-link fence to go along with the story of an illegal immigrant attempting to soar over it. Hundreds of tests occur in a public area or using volunteers as subjects in the experiment (Ultimate, n.d.).

MythBusters present a unique approach to education. The producers of the show actively seek out myths to test. Sources include folklorists, the internet, and fan suggestions. This helps create a broad range of topics, which may not ordinarily be covered by other science shows or classes. Most episodes include totally new topics and others revisit previously tested myths. One of the popular topics was the many uses of duct tape, which appeared in many episodes and had two specials.

Many of the myths tested originate more than 100 years ago. The MythBusters take note of the time and location of the supposed myth to attempt and accurate replication. Using drawings, they attempt to explain how the experiment should work, given the materials of the era. They also explain the historical perspective to help understand how the myth originated. One story about a Chinese astronaut from the fifteenth century came up for them to test. The MythBusters researched grasses of the area and collected several tall stalks to build rockets with them. To replicate the historic style, they used gunpowder composed of elements of the era. To add to the vision, they seated a dummy on a Chinese style chair, dressed in traditional clothing. They also built one using modern rockets to determine plausibility of the myth.

The technical aspects of the show give it the appearance of a low budget reality show. Most of the filming occurs at Jamie’s own M5 Industries, which doubles as a special effects shop. As the show grew in popularity, so did its budget. While a budget was not frequently discussed, it has been mentioned and is apparent by the items used in each episode. Early episodes a small camera crew, following the MythBusters around as they worked. Other shots included a mounted camera that allowed the hosts to speak directly to the viewers.

As time progressed, additional cameras and equipment were brought in. High-speed cameras do a great job catching the smallest movements necessary to evaluate an experiment while adding awesome footage for viewers to gaze at the screen. The slowed imagery was frequently used to show how a bullet moved through the air or as it penetrated the target. Some experiments called for a multiple camera array to best capture one event from several angles. This footage was used similar to an instant replay at a sporting event. Other times, the cameras were fixed close to an experiment. In times were projectiles or fire was a concern, this option allowed for a better analysis while remaining safe. B-roll is frequently used, to help demonstrate a lapse in time. The majority of experiments take place over several days or are conducted distant locations.

Ethics are frequently addressed during the series. The hosts use various cutaways in every episode that state not to try anything from the show at home. While it is clear that they do not know everything, they consult with experts to help make the best decision, which is expressed to the viewers. As mentioned, safety is a factor with the experiments and is apparent in their actions (Zavrel, 2011). Blast shields are used for tests involving explosives. Protective clothing and eyewear are used with chemicals or bacteria. Emergency responders are called in ahead of dangerous experiments as an added safety layer.

The MythBusters have encountered unsafe situations multiple times. In their attempts to conduct tests, equipment can fail, especially if there was an error in planning (Morgan, 2014). Multiple injuries have been captured for the show. They subject themselves to many of the tests, but can and have backed out when concerned about safety. In a few experiments, the experts have intervened.

Censorship has occurred on the show several times. Foul language is sometimes heard since these people are in a typical working establishment. Other times, it may be done for the safety of viewers. In some shots, the MythBusters mix hazardous materials to create explosive materials. The names of these chemicals are blurred to prevent identification. Other times, the exact steps used are edited; to reduce the chance someone recreates the mixture.

Limitations caused by the show’s format have led to useful information to be cut out of each episode. The camera crew records hundreds of hours of content though less than forty-two minutes’ worth end up in the show. This can lead viewers into believing that the experiments were not properly carried out. Experiments need a large enough data set to be considered substantial evidence. Sometimes, only one or two tests are shown, but outtakes often show that material was removed.

Myths can include those of religion and conspiracy, but these types are rarely explored due to their closely regarded beliefs. Stories that relate to the existence of God can be debated in a public forum, but may alienate an audience if the show were to go that route. Many well-known conspiracies may have evidence to support or dispel the event, but exploring these may stir up viewers as well, especially for sensitive subjects like September 11. The team has touched on a few, such as the moon landing conspiracy. As people pointed out flaws in the photos supposedly taken on the moon, the MythBusters proved the unusual shadows could come from a single light source like the sun (Ultimate, n.d.).

Since MythBusters has tested over 1,000 myths, it is certain that the show has made an impact on society, just like how society has made an impact on the show. On multiple occasions, things that fans write into the show make it on air. When MythBusters were looking for a small, lightweight engine, a fan donated one though they had already purchased one. When they were looking for a small European car, a fan contacted the show to let them have his. He already knew that in typical MythBusters fashion, the car would be demolished.

The show has evaluated hundreds of myths from current society. The primary purpose of the show is evaluating the beliefs of society while providing their findings. Hollywood movie myths are a popular topic, since many people tend to believe what they see on film can happen in real life (Morgan, 2014). They demonstrated that the highest caliber guns have a difficult time piercing a vehicle, though movies make it look like bullets destroy everything.

Before MythBusters, one can argue the amount of science-based shows existed on television. Bill Nye may be the only other well-known figure. The style in which Adam and Jamie converse make it sound natural as they work. The simple manner in which they communicate their plans help viewers follow along with the experiments. The combination of science and intuition allow the MythBusters to confirm a myth is actually factual. This method encourages millions of viewers to use logic and reasoning when evaluating issues of their own. People do not need to major in physics or engineering in order to perform experiments. Anyone with the will to learn can devise a plan to prove a hypothesis.

MythBusters spares little expense, even on the simplest of myths, to determine whether they are fact or not. While they may not be able to prove every existence of a story, they are often able to replicate the scenario, deeming the myth as plausible (Morgan, 2014). The hosts integrate a sufficient amount of knowledge and broad tests ranges for their experiments, so that even the most skeptical viewer can accept the results of their investigations.

The MythBusters have not always come up with the best methods. Fans of the show have said this many times. The important thing is to conduct research prior to testing. The same concepts can be applied to everyday life. An employee may find a more efficient way to perform a job if he or she evaluates flaws in the routine. A manager can solicit feedback prior to making a procedural change. Once a change is made, that manager can gather data to see if the new method is superior to the prior one. Using the scientific method helps one gain a better understanding of the world.

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