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Lecture Review: MythBusters Close Fall Festival With a Bang

Discovery Channel Hits Describe Explosions, Stardom

By Benjamin P. Gleitzman

LSC Presents The MythBusters

Kresge Auditorium

Saturday, Nov. 4, 2006, 8 p.m.

The MythBusters, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, graced Kresge stage Saturday night to a packed audience, for the closing event of Fall Festival 2006. Accessorized with their customary nerdy glasses and a black beret, respectively, Savage and Hyneman immediately busted the myth that television personalities look different in real life.

Animated and chatty, both speakers were forthcoming with juicy stories of the show’s maturation from BBC brainchild to American pop culture cable sensation. On their show, the MythBusters use science to evaluate the validity of myths, rumors, and urban legends, acquiring ideas from “the internets” as well as viewer e-mails.

“We basically set stuff on fire,” said Savage, who has earned a reputation as the goofier of the two hosts.

“I am the way you see me on the show,” Hyneman added later in a subdued tone. Hyneman is known for his construction of a remote controlled 7-Up vending machine that energetically shoots cans out of the drink slot — not to mention its tank treads, which are capable of traveling 20 miles per hour over any terrain.

“It’s basically a breech-loading soda cannon,” Savage said.

The two-hour presentation at Kresge was held in a question and answer format, with Danbee Kim ’09 submitting preliminary inquiries while Yang Ruan ’07 performed Google searches of the MythBusters’ answers and projected them on a large backdrop behind the stage.

Hyneman and Savage gave away a few spoilers from upcoming shows, which include the building of three one-fiftieth scale zeppelins to test the myth that the Hindenburg disaster was caused by its flammable aluminum-oxide based paint rather than hydrogen combustion. While they did not give away the ending, the MythBusters pointed out that aluminum-oxide is one of the major components in thermite and solid rocket fuel.

“[The myth] involved a big explosion, which is part of our criteria,” Savage said.

Emphasizing that they are more than two guys with explosives, both MythBusters reinforced the scientific reasons why they enjoy the show.

“My biggest days are when theoretical data matches empirical evidence,” Savage said.

The MythBusters presented a short video clip that was never aired on the Discovery channel, entitled “Facts about Flatulence.” The first half of the clip, which involved a hydrogen sulfide meter and microphone sewn into a homemade pair of boxer shorts, explored the myth that girls do not pass gas. The second half of the clip, in which Savage constructed a chair with stirrups, answered the question, “Can you light your own … output?”

Both Hyneman and Savage began their careers as special effects artists, and most of the MythBusters show is shot in Hyneman’s studio in San Francisco, Calif. All models and rigs used on the show are built entirely by the two MythBusters, although the hosts admitted to having a team of researchers investigate myths prior to testing.

“There are no elves in the background,” Hyneman said.

The MythBusters’ chemistry onstage was well balanced, with both speakers giving the other enough time to drive home an important point, as Hyneman would throughout the evening, or else, as Savage was more inclined to do, meander through nostalgic stories. During the second hour, one audience member asked for a hug from the duo. Requests for a signature, a photograph, and $10 soon followed.

Younger members of the audience asked a surprising number of well-informed questions, which were fielded well by the MythBusters.

“A lot of stuff we do on the show is illegal,” Savage said. However, the popularity of the show has afforded the MythBusters some friends in high places — namely the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“When you want to blow up a cement truck, you get the FBI,” Savage said.

Hyneman is also currently involved in projects with the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

The entire presentation was more reminiscent of campfire tales than a lecture from two television personalities. The MythBusters ended their lecture by discussing how the show is used to both teach and raise awareness of science in schools across the country.