0

There was a TV program that's called MythBusters, and I think in general, the TV station or common belief is that it can bust myths.

Some example might be, it tried to build a soda bottles propelling device and see that it failed, and cannot really propel a box 20 feet away. Or it might build 2 electro-magnetic discs and show that it cannot really help a person climb up a steel wall (as in the movies).

But can it actually bust such a myth?

That's because even a company, when they invent something, they might start with something that fail, and they may go through years and years of R&D, and after 3 years, they still may not come up with a device that work, and they may finally succeed after many years. So if MythBusters tries something for days (probably only days or a couple of weeks) and cannot succeed, can they really disprove it and call it a myth?

In this example, say, if a company, after years of research, found a way to have 2 electro-magnetic discs that have strong magnetic force enough for a person to climb up steel wall, it might be sold at a fairly high price, or it might be put on hold if the company doesn't see that it has good commercial value yet. So if MythBusters studied this for a month and can't build such discs, can it declare what is in the movie is fake and cannot be real?

3
  • 1
    Mythbusters generally attempts to address claims of actual events, not possible future events. If they bust something (and their busting isn't always perfect--I've experienced a "myth" they "busted" before) that's only addressing the claim, not future developments of similar tech. – Loren Pechtel May 31 '15 at 1:01
  • @LorenPechtel it is not about future events. Testing whether 2 electro-magnetic discs can help climb a steel wall, does not require future development. The program simply tried and built it and found that, for example, a reasonably sized pair of discs can support the weight of 30 pounds, for example, and then will mark it as a myth. – nonopolarity May 31 '15 at 8:00
  • Also, the Mythbusters crew employs a fair amount of people whose job is to research these claims. If someone already has already built a working version of the thing/myth they're trying to replicate, they'll usually mention it as a proof of concept and say the myth is at least plausible. – Dungarth May 31 '15 at 15:29
1

MythBusters tries something for days (probably only days or a couple of weeks) and cannot succeed, can they really disprove it and call it a myth?

The Wikipedia page on the TV program MythBusters says this about their methodology (with cites to explanations of the methodology in the show itself):

The MythBusters typically test myths in a two-step process. In early episodes, the steps were described as "replicate the circumstances, then duplicate the results" by Savage.[20] This means that first the team attempts to recreate the circumstances that the myth alleges, to determine whether the alleged result occurs; if that fails, they attempt to expand the circumstances to the point that will cause the described result.

In other words, they don't just take on vague myths like "you can walk on water" and try to find out if it's possible. They take on myths that have a fairly specific recipe that can be tested for effectiveness. For example, I know they have considered the myth of whether "carrying pizza boxes can protect against some types of arms fire".

If the myth can't be reproduced without changing the experiment, I'd say most people would agree that the myth has been successfully debunked, even if making a great number of modifications eventually shows some effect.

Or it might build 2 electro-magnetic discs and show that it cannot really help a person climb up a steel wall (as in the movies).

Was there an episode that featured this? I don't follow them myself but a cursory glance at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_MythBusters_episodes yields no results.

I think they avoid testing "as seen in the movies myths" because the movies do not contain enough "recipe" to be tested meaningfully.

2
  • I think it is this one: "Can a metal duct be stealthily climbed using magnets?" It was a while ago and I forgot whether they included electro-magnet as part of the test. But I remember thinking that, if they didn't make it work, how do they know someone else can or cannot? Maybe it just requires more R&D. – nonopolarity May 31 '15 at 8:06
  • The did make it work, they only said it was noisy. They could climb, but not "stealthily". mythbustersresults.com/episode54 and kwc.org/mythbusters/2006/07/episode_54_crimes_and_mythdeme.html – DavePhD May 31 '15 at 11:46

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .