Almost every single one of the West Hall auditorium’s 750 seats was full on the evening of November 18 as the packed-in crowd eagerly anticipated the start of the show. Finally, RPI Players President Joey Faust made the introductions and two men walked on stage: Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, better known as the Mythbusters.
Since the fall of 2003, the Discovery Channel show has been a runaway hit, as the former special effects gurus have tackled such monstrous myths as the apparent escape from Alcatraz, the echolessness of a duck’s quack, and whether or not it’s possible to beat the breathalyzer. The curiosity, determination, and technical cleverness embodied by the Mythbusters resonated with RPI’s student body.
The event was in four parts: an interview with Faust, a blooper reel, a question and answer session, and a mini-experiment done live by the Mythbusters. Faust did an excellent job of covering the basics, including how the show operates, the methodology behind the mythbusting, the career paths and history of the two men, anecdotes illustrative of the problems encountered in the show’s production, and more.
Savage and Hyneman did disclose two in progress stories. First, they will test a personal “jetpack” that is often advertised in the back of craft magazines. Composed of a 60 horsepower ultralight engine and aluminum pipes to a couple of fans, the device has nothing to do with jets and has never had a successful demonstration. Also, the Mythbusters intend to drop a hybrid car from 100 feet and test for danger of electrocution when the Jaws of Life are applied.
Making the show is a tremendous time commitment. Hyneman and Savage work 10 to 12 hour days for six days a week working on as many as half a dozen myths at once, depending on what resources for which myth are available. Both men complimented the show’s research department, which not only supplies the background knowledge for each myth but also often makes sure that the team does not encounter any legal or safety problems in their experiments.
In addition, there is enormous emotional and physical investment into each myth. “I have now contributed every bodily fluid or excretion to the show, in the name of science or television, I can’t remember which,” said Savage.
The blooper reel showed that Savage takes most of the physical brunt of the investigations, proving once again that watching someone fall down is almost always funny. Savage was even seen covered in the contents of a fire extinguisher and yelling, “My crotch is steaming!”
Hyneman, in his trademark beret and caterpillar mustache, seems to be the quieter of the two men at first, but veteran watchers of the show will know that he can get just as excited about his work as any other member of the crew.
At the end of the show, the Mythbusters obliged their crowd and busted a mini-myth onstage: that of the explosiveness of combining pop rocks with carbonated soda. As usual, Savage was the guinea pig, but after remarking on the horrible taste, he lifted up his shirt, observed that he was fine, and proudly proclaimed “Myth busted.”
Afterwards, the two men signed autographs for schoolchildren backstage. Hyneman said that he and Savage were flattered at the invitation to speak at RPI and the packed-house reception they received.
In the end, the show is more about the method that Savage and Hyneman use to bust myths than the end result. The Mythbusters pride themselves on being purely empirical in their investigations, and both said they were especially encouraged by those who were inspired to study science and engineering after watching the show.