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What We Learned From The MYTHBUSTERS A-TEAM Special

We are three episodes deep into the new season of MythBusters and the duo continue to hit pop culture hard. This week Adam and Jamie tackled two myth from the A-Team, and ended the episode with a bit of classic MythBusters ingenuity. So, what did we learn?

Warning, I am going to spoil the results of these myths. You’ve been warned!

The Myths

MB#3_PIC1Can you build a propane-powered log cannon with tools found in any lumber yard?

The A-Team was famous for being able to get out of situations with improvised (and non-lethal) weapons. Adam and Jamie wanted to see if a hollowed-put log and some propane really could amount to a bad guy buster.

MB#3_PIC2Does putting dynamite under a manhole cover reduce its lethality?

Sticking to their Batman-esque rules, the A-Team will incapacitate the baddies but won’t kill them. So, if they need to take out a pursuing vehicle and they have some dynamite on hand, the explosion will disable the car but not the driver. That’s just their style. But is an inch or two of manhole cover enough to shield a driver from doom?

The Results


Being no strangers to wood cannons or propane explosions, the M-Team quickly found out that a 2×4 and a log does not an effective cannon make. Even with a plug behind the 2×4 and a range of different fuel-to-air ratios, there just wasn’t enough umpf.

But at its heart the myth was about building a viable weapon in under an hour, using only tools and materials found in a lumber yard. Adam and Jamie decided to replicate the results, and built their own machine. It chucked logs at bad guys at 60 miles per hour using a spun-up tire and a reloading mechanism.




In the control test, nine sticks of dynamite destroyed much of the car, and produced a pressure wave that would be enough to kill bystanders and permanently cripple the driver. However, allow that energy to escape into an improvised sewer below the car, and all the damage falls below the lethal and crippling range. The A-Team were actually spot-on here.

What We Learned

PSI: Denoting “pounds per square inch,” PSI is a measure of the pressure on a surface. It’s used for everything from car tires to water taps. But it also can tell us how deadly an explosion is. You don’t have to be hit with shrapnel or burned by heat to die from a bomb blast. Instead, a simple wave of pressure in the air can bruise bodies and rumble lungs. Or tear off a limb. Ask Buster.

Fuel-to-air ratios: We’ve seen this on MythBusters before, but it’s worth restating: Things don’t blow up like they do in the movies. Propane needs a certain amount of air to ignite, and gasoline usually has to be vaporized to hold a flame. These fluids don’t exactly just explode. Instead, the chemistry (or more specifically, the stoichiometry) has to be right for anything to combust.

Assorted Thoughts

The new season charges along with pop culture myths that should make any fan happy, but I can see the comments now: “I miss the build team.” I know. We all do. And I suspect that these high-profile episodes right at the beginning of the season are meant to ease the transition into the show’s new format. With this episode, however, I think it’s starting to work.

And remember is who the MythBusters are actively trying to reach. The show will continue for the foreseeable future, and if science communication is a goal of the new format, think of how well it will do with new, young viewers. Those of us who have been watching the show for a decade might need a few more shows to adjust, but imagine how a show more focused on science and process and making will do with the next generation of MythBusters fans.

Next week, Adam and Jamie are testing videogame myths, and one in particular that I’ve always wanted to see challenged — how much inventory can a hero or heroine actually carry?

IMAGES: Copyright Discovery Communications; Screenshots and video used for the purposes of education, considered fair use.

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