Mak­ing nerds cool

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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.

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