It’s odd that after 15 seasons, the MythBusters still have something to prove. Late last year it was announced that the build team of Grant, Kari, and Tory would be leaving the show, and just a few days ago we got a look at the show’s bold new direction. In short, an institution of science communication has made no secret that episodes going forward will feel different, and is expecting a large and eager fanbase to follow Adam and Jamie into a new era.
Whether or not the new season of MythBusters will work with this very loyal fanbase remains to be seen. But from the first episode — a Simpsons special no less — we know that science and curiosity will still be the beating heart of the show, even if it does feel it is lacking something. Here’s what we learned from the MythBusters season 15 premiere:
Seen in the episode 1994 episode “Sideshow Bob Roberts,” this myth is a question of energies and collisions. Can a 239-pound man provide enough squish to dissipate the energy of a 5,000-pound wrecking ball?
Taken from the 1990 episode “The Crepes of Wrath,” Adam and Jamie want to know whether the pressure wave from a small explosive will cause multiple toilet water geysers if they are connected by plumbing.
Homer just turned an elastic collision, where kinetic energy is conserved, into an inelastic collision, where it is not. Instead of all the wrecking ball’s kinetic energy going straight into the structure of the house, some of it instead compresses Homer’s body, resulting in a less-damaging hit.
Wow, cherry bombs (or their equivalents) are dangerous. Though the explosive Adam and Jamie used had more than enough energy to force water up and out of the toilets, it ruptured the ceramic and the energy escaped instead of winding up the plumbing. However, if the toilets were indestructible this might have really worked.
What We Learned
Kinetic energy: Defined as one-half times the mass of an object multiplied by its velocity squared, kinetic energy is a measure of the ability of a moving object to do work (apply a force over a distance) on something else. The wrecking ball’s 5,000 pounds moving at 5.5 miles per hour delivered a whopping 6,800 Joules of energy to Homer.
Pressure waves: What really moves stuff around during an explosion is a pressure wave. An explosion is a combustion of materials that creates a rapidly expanding shell of gases by forcing air out of its way. When these gases bunch up at the leading edge of this shell, it can apply a large force to surrounding objects. This is what moved the toilet water up and out of the toilets.
I was happy with the first episode of the new season if for nothing other than the educational value. As promised, Adam and Jamie focused much more on the actual process of building and testing, rather than banter or filler. You could really tell that they were trying to add in science where they could. For example, at one point Jamie remarks, “Well, force equals mass times acceleration…” The sentence feels like a line thrown to him by producers, but it still imparts the core concepts in the episode to the viewer. I have to commend them for that. And the new cameras and graphics package (plus a number of gorgeous timelapses) really make the show look good.
Even though the science is still sound, the new season is noticeably lacking the feel that viewers have come to know and love over a decade. The intro is different, the music is different, there is no build team — the lighthearted tone of the show seems to be gone (at least in this first episode). Without the lively personalities of Kari, Grant, and Tory to throw to, MythBusters currently feels like more of an educational show than it ever has. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly is different. I’m eager to see how the season hits me as a whole. We will find out more next week when Adam and Jamie tackle Indiana Jones myths.