Mythbusters topics, from the Skeptoid files
March 22, 2017
Brian Louden and Jon Lung. They were selected by winning Mythbusters: The Search hosted by Skeptoid friend Kyle Hill (you may have also noted Skeptoid Media's The Feeding Tube host Tamara Robertson on the show).Awesomely, a new season of Mythbusters is afoot, with new hosts
And, equally awesomely, Brian and Jon are super friendly and approachable, and love engaging with us on social media. (This is soooo important, especially considering Mythbusters' potential for impact on society and the world.) And recently, Brian asked me the following question:
I told him it was a glorious question, one deserving of some deeper thought. Rather than just throw out ideas, I wanted to give them in context of what I think separates a program that's merely entertaining from one that's truly a piece of important work. I wanted to find ideas that fall somewhere in between the best that Mythbusters can possibly be, and its baseline:
In an interview with CSI, Adam Savage once said:
There are several categories we don't touch: what [James] Randi would call woo-woo [and] what we call oogie-boogie. I'm still ashamed we ever went near pyramid power as a story to test. All of those mystical things. Dowsing is an open question that we've been thinking back and forth about for years whether or not to do it on the show.I think that was a mistake. Those are the myths people really believe. In life, it doesn't matter how far you have to drop Buster before his arm will break off, but it does matter if you believe a miracle juice cleanse will confer magical super-health on you -- or you give away your money to charlatans for some other reason. [Randi actually did do the dowsing test with the Australian Skeptics, and the result was both entertaining and educational.]
With regards to its science, Mythbusters has always done as good a job as is reasonably possible within the constraints of their program, and they deserve high marks for that. They've always followed the scientific method, even if informally; and they've always gone out of their way to explain how it could have been done even better given more resources. And that's really what makes Mythbusters great. But science is of little value until it becomes applied science. That's when it impacts us. Does it do anyone any good to apply science to shooting a raccoon out of a drainage pipe? No. But it DOES do good when we apply science to improving the world, or improving the viewer's ability to interpret the world. That's the difference between programming that's fun and educational, and programming that's just fun.
Mythbusters will never be in danger of running out of fun.
So with all that in mind, in accordance with Brian's request, I run my eye over the Skeptoid catalog, and offer what I think would be the best topics I've covered that Mythbusters could do a live-action test of. I offer these without regard to whether the first Mythbusters series may have already covered them.
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