Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mythbusters: Good Wonky Fun

The New York Times today tackles the question of whether Mythbusters the best science show on television:
Mr. [Jamie] Hyneman and his colleague, Adam Savage, are the hosts of “Mythbusters” on the Discovery Channel. It may be the best science program on television, in no small part because it does not purport to be a science program at all. What “Mythbusters” is best known for, to paraphrase Mr. Hyneman, is blowing stuff up. And banging stuff together. And setting stuff on fire. The two men do it for fun and ratings, of course. But in a subtle and goofily educational way, they commit mayhem for science’s sake.
Mythbusters is good wonky fun, which is why it's my favorite TV show. Hyneman and Savage take urban myths and find ways to test them; at the end of each episode they declare a myth confirmed, plausible or busted. They have become geek gods so to speak, to the point of getting their own Lego figures.
As the
Times reports, the show isn't scripted:
Part of what makes the show compelling for so many viewers is its unpredictability. “Once you get it going, whatever it does is what it does,” Mr. Hyneman said.
But, he said, “Whether we get what we expected or not, any result is a good result — even if it’s that we’re idiots.”
“Failure,” Mr. Savage said, “is always an option.”
Along the way, they and their cohorts act like big kids with very big toys. They build things, break them, shoot them, crash them, and of course blow them up. For the most part, the science is incidental to the mayhem; the occasional explanation is sometimes presented with a disclaimer, "Warning: science content." And when they've already confirmed or busted a myth, they will scale up the experiment just to experience the big bang or crash.
Happily, the fun on Mythbusters isn't limited to the guys; Kari Byron, shown here with Buster the hapless crash test dummy, is one of several women who have been featured over the show's several seasons. She sometimes likes to call her parents just to say, "Guess what I did today?"
Photo of Lego figures: Brickshelf
Photo of Kari Byron with Buster: M5 industries


Blogger mmahaffie said...

I love that show. Adam hangs out on MetaFilter, a group-blog I keep an eye on. He sometimes gets into discussions there about experiments on the show.

9:43 PM, November 21, 2006  

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