Making nerds cool
DOES IT get any cooler than testing out the classic cartoon joke involving a trail of gunpowder and an explosion?
Not for Mythbusters’ Adam Savage, who deems this blow-up one of his favourites.
‘‘We lit a line of gunpowder to a keg leading to an explosion,’’ Savage says of the segment. ‘‘It was one of the more minor explosions we’ve done on Mythbusters, but more deeply satisfying from a cartoon perspective.’’
Mythbusters has gone beyond merely being a hit cable series. It’s a cultural icon, based in co-host Jamie Hyneman’s special effects studio on San Francisco. The number one question the ’busters get asked is if they will run out of myths?
‘‘We say we’ll run out of ideas when people ever stop believing stupid things,’’ Savage says. ‘‘We just finished one that has confounded us our entire careers.’’
The episode finds Savage and Hyneman tackling a question baffling everyone from bloggers to pilots: If a plane is travelling at take-off speed on a conveyor belt, and that conveyor belt is matching the speed in reverse, can the plane take off?
‘‘We put the plane on a quartermile conveyor belt and tested it out,’’ Savage says of the experiment using a pilot and his ultralight plane. ‘‘The pilot and his entire flight club got it wrong.’’
Savage often describes Mythbusters as ‘‘ Jackass meets Mr Wizard.’’ And when you think about wacky stunts done on the show, Tory Belleci’s name invariably pops up. Belleci is renowned for attempting to wakeboard from the back of a cruise ship.
Not, he says, the craziest thing he’s had to do on the show. In fact, he’s also tested whether your pants can catch fire while being dragged behind a horse.
Other seasons have seen him sticking his tongue onto a frozen pole and climbing into a pen with a bull to see if the animal will charge him because he’s wearing a red outfit.
‘‘When I was in the arena with the bull or with the crocodile, everything inside my body was saying don’t do it, but you know you have to do it,’’ Belleci says.
‘‘I feel like I spent my whole life preparing for this job.
‘‘I loved playing with fire and at 19 I was almost arrested for making a pipe bomb. Everything I used to get in trouble for I’m now doing as my job.’’
Both Belleci and Grant Imahara came to Mythbusters after working at Industrial Light and Magic.
‘‘People always ask why I would leave ILM, and it’s because Mythbusters sounded like fun. Working on movies and TV is a blast, and ILM has the most talented people in the world,’’ Imahara says. ‘‘But on Mythbusters I’ve been able to go places I would never have access to otherwise.’’
Not only that, Imahara says he believes Mythbusters just may be responsible for making nerds cool.
‘‘Look at Heroes and Numb3rs and all these new shows coming out now and we were on the forefront,’’ Imahara says. ‘‘The nerd is the protagonist, the hero. I worked at ILM the same time Masi Oka (star of Heroes) was there. Who would have thought that two Asian-American nerds from ILM would be on hit shows?’’
Revenge of the nerds:
Jamie Hyneman (left) and Adam Savage put myths to the test.