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Old December 9 2010, 04:13 AM   #1
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Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

Archimedes Ray 3.0: I like the idea of this, the President talking about the importance of science education and citing the Mythbusters as a positive example. I just wish it had been a new myth instead of a retest of one that's been done twice already. It seemed that the whole thing was basically just an excuse to do something that would let a lot of schoolkids participate in the myth, which I guess is worthwhile in the context of the President's message, but doesn't necessarily make for the most entertaining myth.

Still, it had a couple of high points. Adam's epiphany about using the net as an aiming system was inspired. It let everyone's beam of light serve as its own gunsight, since you've got two points of illumination, the one on the net and the one on the sail, to keep aligned. That was terrific.

I was also intrigued by Jamie's observation at the end, about how you can learn new things from an experiment that doesn't go the way you expect. That was an intriguing thought, that maybe the purpose of the weapon wasn't to ignite enemy ships but to blind and disorient the enemy. So it could be that Archimedes did come up with something like this, but historians exaggerated or misunderstood its purpose. That new insight on Jamie's part made this revisit worthwhile.

Hellboy punch: This one was kind of interesting, in that the scene from the movie struck me as something that did kind of seem to make sense; I didn't think about it in detail, but it wasn't the kind of stunt that jumps out at me as obviously bogus physics. But then, as the Mythbusters actually tested it and broke it down, they illustrated just how many flaws in the idea I hadn't considered.

One problem that struck me was one they didn't even mention but that I thought was evident from the high-speed shots. Namely, a car has a suspension system that absorbs shocks; it's not a rigid lever arm. So that's going to work against the kind of transfer of momentum that they were looking for. It's not easy to get the wheels to leave the ground, because the suspension is specifically designed to keep them on the ground in spite of sudden shocks.

Now that I think about it, I think the reason it seemed plausible to me on first blush, and maybe why the filmmakers imagined it happening that way, is because it reminded me of what happens when a bicycle's front wheel hits an obstruction (something that Tory famously experienced some seasons back thanks to a little red wagon, and that I've personally experienced thanks to... well, I'm still not entirely sure what caused it). But of course the parameters are rather different there; most importantly, the center of mass is a lot higher.
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Old December 9 2010, 09:11 AM   #2
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

I'm five minutes in, and one cool little detail you didn't mention -- they used the Classic Trek phaser sound effect for the Death Ray in their experiment animatic!

Seven and a half minutes in: nice for Adam that he finally comes up with an idea that works while Jamie doesn't. That doesn't often happen.

Thirty-four minutes in (skipping commercials): it's interesting to see that the school kids are doing less well at aiming their mirrors than the adults were in the test. I wonder if that would make much of a difference to the result.
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Old December 9 2010, 09:56 AM   #3
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

I was worried about the kids and their aiming ability, some would be fine, but the youngers one, I dunno, I don't know why they chose middle school aged kids, shoulda at least been all high school, I'm not confident that this age group could hold the mirrors steady enough and be on target.

The whole thing with Hellboys thing stupid, is that all they do now is debunk movie stunts? Hardly a myth. It's a fictitious super being for crying out loud.
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Old December 9 2010, 01:55 PM   #4
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

Brent wrote: View Post
I was worried about the kids and their aiming ability, some would be fine, but the youngers one, I dunno, I don't know why they chose middle school aged kids, shoulda at least been all high school, I'm not confident that this age group could hold the mirrors steady enough and be on target.
The high schoolers were from the school where Jamie's wife teaches (this was made evident in an interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation Monday, but not in the show itself); if it's a small school, they may have had to go to the middle school to fill out their ranks.
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Old December 9 2010, 03:13 PM   #5
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

Yes, the President comes up with yet another way to spend excessive amounts of money on yet another project that has already been shown to be impractical and doomed to failure!



One thing that may have made a difference in the Hellboy punch: Hellboy himself was standing on the ground, giving his fist a firmly anchored bracing upon impact, whereas the MythFist, falling from above, was free to be acted upon by the mass and vector of the SUV.
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Old December 9 2010, 03:59 PM   #6
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

Elf Malakai wrote: View Post
Thirty-four minutes in (skipping commercials): it's interesting to see that the school kids are doing less well at aiming their mirrors than the adults were in the test. I wonder if that would make much of a difference to the result.
I'm not sure that's true. For one thing, the target was much further away, so a small error in aiming would show up much more prominently. For another thing, there were far more mirrors in use, so a small percentage of inaccuracy would manifest more noticeably. For a third thing, the mirrors were considerably larger and harder to control. So even if the students' aim was just as good as the test group's, the results would've been much the same as this, I think.


Brent wrote: View Post
I was worried about the kids and their aiming ability, some would be fine, but the youngers one, I dunno, I don't know why they chose middle school aged kids, shoulda at least been all high school, I'm not confident that this age group could hold the mirrors steady enough and be on target.
Well, as the President said, he wants to promote science education. So the idea was to choose a myth that would let a bunch of kids participate in an experiment.

The whole thing with Hellboys thing stupid, is that all they do now is debunk movie stunts?
You asked that exact same question a week ago (except you included YouTube stunts as well), and I pointed out then that the answer was a decisive "no." As of now, the tally this fall is up to ten episodes, 25 myth topics, and only four movie myths. Hardly "all they do."


Forbin wrote: View Post
Yes, the President comes up with yet another way to spend excessive amounts of money on yet another project that has already been shown to be impractical and doomed to failure!
Ahh, but as Jamie pointed out, an experiment isn't a failure if you learn something from it. As Randall Munroe wrote in an xkcd strip (or rather, in the hover text accompanying it), "You don't use science to show that you're right, you use science to become right." If you don't get the result you wanted, but you learn something from that lack of result, then the experiment is a success. It's only a failure if you don't learn anything.

And of course the real purpose of the project was to get kids interested in science. If this did that for any of those kids participating, or any of those watching, then it's a success. And if those kids learned that it's more important to learn something new than to confirm your existing preconceptions, then it's an even greater success. An unwillingness to let go of preconceptions is the cause of most of what's wrong in government and society today.



One thing that may have made a difference in the Hellboy punch: Hellboy himself was standing on the ground, giving his fist a firmly anchored bracing upon impact, whereas the MythFist, falling from above, was free to be acted upon by the mass and vector of the SUV.
"Firmly anchored?" I don't think so. A typical SUV has a mass on the order of two tons, give or take. If Hellboy weighed even that much, let alone considerably more, he'd be so dense that he'd break through the floor if he entered a conventionally constructed building. Thus, it follows that he weighs around the same as a normal human of his build, making him no more than a tenth as massive as the SUV. And he was standing still while it was moving at 30 MPH. So there's no way he could be considered "firmly anchored" unless he had some kind of magical means of affixing himself to the roadway.
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Old December 9 2010, 05:45 PM   #7
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

No, but it does make you wonder if they'd get a different result using a giant fist anchored to a swinging arm attached to a rig in a fixed position.
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Old December 9 2010, 06:18 PM   #8
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

I doubt it would make a significant difference. You've still got the same problem with the direction of force, the proximity to the fulcrum, the fact that the car's suspension and crumpling would absorb or dissipate much of the kinetic energy, etc.

Besides, even if you could flip the car forward, there's no way that punching downward would impart enough upward momentum to allow the SUV to clear the top of Hellboy's head completely.
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Old December 9 2010, 07:17 PM   #9
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

Simple, they just didn't hit it with enough force. Hellboy is fake, his strength is fake. Grant said it would take astronomical force at the fulcrum to make it flip. Well, so that means it IS possible, they just didn't use enough force, or speed. We saw the little toy car did get more air when it was going faster, and being hit harder. They should have ramped up the car to higher speeds and dropped more weight on it. Also, in the movie, it kinda looked like maybe the car hit Hellboy and used him as a fulcrum? The bumper seemed to hit his legs no? I could be looking at it wrong. But having a stationary force in front of the car that hits it hard may have shown a different result.

Also, the orders coming from Obama to do the myth that has been done twice was so cheesy, it was obvious they filmed it all in one take AFTER the myth had been done, not two separate times before and after the myth with the results. And seriously, couldn't he have come up with a better myth? I dunno, I kinda felt they did this myth well the first two times, didn't need to be explored further.
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Old December 9 2010, 07:36 PM   #10
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

Brent wrote: View Post
Simple, they just didn't hit it with enough force.
No, they did ramp it up to a greater force than what they calculated was necessary, and it still didn't get the result. There's just no way that pushing down on the front of a car's hood is going to produce the same result as firing a pneumatic ram out the bottom of it to make it flip over (which is how the movie stunt was no doubt done). Remember the Indiana Jones motorcycle flip myth? That one was busted too. The physics issues are the same.

Grant said it would take astronomical force at the fulcrum to make it flip. Well, so that means it IS possible, they just didn't use enough force, or speed.
No, he's saying that if it were possible, it would require greater force. That doesn't mean that requiring greater force means it is possible, because that's just one of the factors that would have to be right. There are other problems, as discussed above. If you tried it with a completely rigid object, maybe something like this could happen, but a car's body and suspension are simply too good at absorbing force.


Also, in the movie, it kinda looked like maybe the car hit Hellboy and used him as a fulcrum? The bumper seemed to hit his legs no? I could be looking at it wrong. But having a stationary force in front of the car that hits it hard may have shown a different result.
Yeah, the result would be that the front of the car would've smashed into it and the car would've most likely pivoted horizontally around it as we saw in the trials.


Also, the orders coming from Obama to do the myth that has been done twice was so cheesy, it was obvious they filmed it all in one take AFTER the myth had been done, not two separate times before and after the myth with the results.
That's no different from how they always tape their intros. Except for the fact that they were in the White House with the President of the United States.
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Old December 9 2010, 10:19 PM   #11
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

"Firmly anchored?" I don't think so. A typical SUV has a mass on the order of two tons, give or take. If Hellboy weighed even that much, let alone considerably more, he'd be so dense that he'd break through the floor if he entered a conventionally constructed building. Thus, it follows that he weighs around the same as a normal human of his build, making him no more than a tenth as massive as the SUV. And he was standing still while it was moving at 30 MPH. So there's no way he could be considered "firmly anchored" unless he had some kind of magical means of affixing himself to the roadway.
Boots with Really. Good. Tread.

And I say "firmly anchored" with him being a demonic fantasy cartoon character firmly in mind.
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Old December 9 2010, 10:29 PM   #12
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

I never thought the Hellboy scene looked remotely believable in the first place. At the most the SUV would have tipped forward a little (while it's occupants went flying through the windshield).

Of course now you know it's only a matter of time until they test the semi truck flip from The Dark Knight. I'm sure it's not remotely possible, but it would still be fun to watch them try.
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Old December 9 2010, 11:21 PM   #13
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

davejames wrote: View Post
Of course now you know it's only a matter of time until they test the semi truck flip from The Dark Knight. I'm sure it's not remotely possible, but it would still be fun to watch them try.
Ooh yeah, that would be cool.
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Old December 10 2010, 03:52 AM   #14
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

Brent wrote: View Post
Hardly a myth. It's a fictitious super being for crying out loud.
There's a group on Mt. Olympus who would like a word with you.
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Old December 10 2010, 06:15 AM   #15
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Re: Mythbusters 12/8: Presidential Challenge

^ No, there's not.
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