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What We Learned From the MYTHBUSTERS INDIANA JONES Special

After taking a brand new direction with a series of myths inspired by The Simpsons, the Mythbusters are back testing the feats of one Dr. Indiana Jones.

With this episode, it looks like the show is settling into its new format quite nicely. The new graphics package is really illuminating some of the math and science behind the duo’s tests, and the upgraded cameras make whips look downright beautiful.

Let’s breakdown the latest episode to see what we can take away.

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

The Myths

MB#2 Myth 1Can you effectively disarm someone holding a gun with the end of a whip?

Dr. Jones is surprisingly good with a whip — he can swing from it, pull love interests closer with it, and even disarm bad guys. To test this myth, the duo took lessons from a weapons expert. Then they started whipping each other.

MB#2 Myth 2Can you outrun a pressure pad booby trap?

During the opening scene of Raiders, Indiana is escaping an ancient temple outfitted with fiendish booby traps. Could he really run past a wall of air-shot poison-tipped darts if the very floor reacts to his every step?

MB#2 Myth 3Could you wrap a whip around a branch to swing across a gap?

And at the end of the temple escape scene, Jones must swing across a gap to safety. He spies a branch overhead. Using his whip, he wraps the end around the branch and holds on tight. Could a whip really provide enough friction to get him across?

The Results


With a little bit of practice, you can get the end of a whip to wrap around a gun or wrist. Pulling it then would definitely interfere with a shot. And according to Jamie, if the end of a whip hit your hand, it would be like “getting cut with a sharp knife.” You would drop it every time.

What did the weapons expert say he would do? “Go right for the face.”


With a 1-second delay in Raiders between the booby trap activation and dart firing, you could easily make it across the floor without being hit. In fact, you could probably make it out of the room before the first one shot if you were quick about it.


After falling into a chasm lined with foam a few times, Adam and Jamie discovered that if you make the branch a bit more realistic — if you make it rough like a tree branch would be — the whip end can get enough purchase on it to take your weight.

What We Learned

The speed of sound: Whenever you speak, pressure waves are ebbing in concentric spheres away from your mouth at 340 meters per second (770 miles per hour). Anything moving faster than this (through air) will make sounds that bunch up at this limit, and when it passes you it will sound like a gigantic boom, a “sonic boom.” That’s what a whip crack is! The end moves fast enough to break the sound barrier — the end of a whip is likely the first-human made object to do so.

Coefficients of friction: A way to quantify how much resistance a surface offers to motion, a higher coefficient of friction means more stick for a wrapped whip. (Your car tires, for example, are made with a certain coefficient of friction to get a grip on the road.) And the more force pressing down on a rough surface, the more friction there is. That’s why Adam could get the whip to release itself without his weight on it, but could swing across a gap as long as his weight was getting the whip to bite into the branch.

Assorted Thoughts

It was really cool to see Adam and Jamie capture the crack of a whip on high-speed camera and crunch the numbers. I had learned about the first human object to break the sound barrier — the end of the whip — in 8th grade science class but didn’t have it confirmed absolutely until last night!

It’s not very often we get to see a whole episode of at least plausible myths, let alone plausible movie myths. That might be a strength of the Indiana Jones series — heavy use of practical effects and straight-forward editing made for a more realistic experience.

This episode was great. It was interesting, it tested myths from a movie almost all of us know and love, but so far the show is still lacking heart. The interplay of Adam and Jamie is as fun/serious as it always has been, but without the levity that Kari, Grant, and Tory brought to the show, the heavy reliance on exposition and video cuts is noticeable. I guess we didn’t know what we would miss until it was gone.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not excited for the rest of the season. With an A-Team and a video game special coming up (yeah, how many guns can you actually carry?), I’m sure the show, and the fans, will settle into this new groove.

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

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