Home » Physics » Physics in films » MythBusters


The Discovery channel televisions series MythBusters turned out to be a wonderful way of educating the public about science and physics.

In Wired magazine, Rhett Allain writes:

As a physics educator, I’ve been impressed by the excellent physics demos the MythBusters make. Some of these are classic examples straight from your physics textbook and some are surprising results that no one expected. Let’s take a look at a few of my favorite examples from previous seasons.

1. Shoot a Bullet, Drop a Bullet – When we are looking at projectile motion, the vertical and horizontal motions are independent. In fact, if you shot a bullet horizontally and dropped a bullet from the same height, the two bullets would hit the ground at exactly the same time.

MythBusters: Bringing on the physics bullet drop

2. A real lead balloon – Whenever something is displacing either a fluid or a gas, there is a buoyancy force on that object pushing it up…

3. Car Crash Into a Wall vs. A Head to Head Crash – A car is traveling at 50 mph. Would it do more damage to crash into a brick (and unmoving) wall or a head on collision with a similar car also traveling at 50 mph?

     Momentum: KaiserScience

     Energy: KaiserScience

4. Yes, Humans Actually Landed on the Moon (Optics experiments)

     Scientifically analyzing claims of moon landing deniers: KaiserScience

5.  The Ultimate in Relative Velocity – What would happen if you shot a ball with a speed of 60 mph from the back a car traveling at 60 mph? Would the ball remain stationary?

     Kinematics – Our lesson : look halfway down the page

5 of the Greatest Physics Demos From the MythBusters (Wired magazine)


“Bullets Fired Up”- Episode 50

Kinematics Labs – practical (in class) and by the MythBusters . According to popular belief, bullets fired into the air maintain their lethal capability when they eventually fall back down.  How can this (safely) be tested?


“Penny Drop”

Kinematics: Acceleration of gravity, wind resistance and terminal velocity.

Penny drop experiment – According to popular belief, a penny dropped from a skyscraper lands with enough force to either kill a pedestrian on the sidewalk below, or embed itself into the sidewalk.


If “doing real science” means something more than encouraging thousands of kids to become scientists, it might mean producing scientific papers. Well guess what? The MythBusters did that too.

The MythBusters were doing real science and here’s proof: Publishing papers


Episodes available on Google Play (when signed in)

Season 3: Exploding jawbreaker (full episode)

Exploding jawnreaker mini-myth 5 minute version: Discovery Channel

Exploding jawbreaker: Mythbusters.wikispaces.com

A jawbreaker can explode when bitten after being heated in a microwave oven or standing out in the sunlight while still in the wrapper.
A construction worker accidentally killed himself with static charge after sandblasting an 8 foot PVC pipe.
An ordinary playing card can actually kill a person if thrown with enough power.

– – – –

MythBusters: Buried Alive & Falling off of a bridge 10/2003

If a person is falling off a bridge, can they save themselves by throwing a hammer ahead of them to break the surface tension of the water prior to their own impact.
How long can you survive in an underground coffin?
Does Cola have special properties?

– – – –

Ancient Death Ray S03 E03

Jamie and Adam reflect on one of the world’s oldest urban legends – did the Greek scientist Archimedes set fire to a Roman fleet using only mirrors and sunlight?
Bullets be stopped by a deck of playing cards, a book, a lighter, quarter-inch polycarbonate shield, or an inch-thick polycarbonate panel.

– – – –

Episode 37: Escape Slide Parachute and Explosive Decapitation
August 2005

Myth: A person strapped into the rear flight attendant seat could survive the destruction of the aircraft in flight by having the surviving tail section slow her fall and absorb impact. Regarding Vesna Vulović, flight attendant on JAT Flight 367.
Myth: It is possible to jump from an airplane and use an inflatable life raft to safely return to earth, as shown in the film / …Using an escape slide instead of the raft.

Escape-slide-parachute (my website)

Annotated Mythbusters: Escape slide parachute

– – – –

Season 4 Episode 11 Bullets Fired Up

Claim: Bullets fired into the air maintain their lethal capability when they eventually fall back down. How high would a bullet fly up? What is the bullet’s terminal velocity?

– – – –

Ming Dynasty Astronaut. Season 3, ep.11

A 15th-century astrologer from China made it into space on a throne powered by 47 bamboo rockets.
A free energy device can be made to harness enough energy to power a house.
A regular house fan can cause decapitation.

– – – –

Breaking glass: Season 3 (Episode 31)

MythBusters Episode 31: Breaking Glass, May 18, 2005.
Adam and Jamie investigate whether a human voice could shatter glass, as perpetuated in stories of opera singers, and demonstrated by Ella Fitzgerald in a commercial for Memorex. With rock singer Jaime Vendera.
– – – –

Season 5 Holiday Special & Rube Goldberg machine

Can a falling frozen turkey break a person’s foot or kill a pet?
Can a turkey be cooked by exposing it to a radar or microwave transmitter antenna?
Do various methods work keeping the needles of a Christmas tree from falling off?
Can a holiday-themed Rube Goldberg machine be built within a week’s time?

– – – –

Season 6, episode 2 NASA moon landing

Were some of the photos from the moon landing fake?
Can you bounce a laser off the moon?
Was the film from the moon faked, and just slowed down?
Will a feather and a hammer drop at the same rate in a vacuum?
Could a footprint be made like the one on the moon?
Could the flag have flapped like it did on the moon?

– – – –

Food Fables, Season 13 Episode 07

It is possible to set up a holiday meal inside a car’s engine compartment and drive long enough to fully cook all of the food.
Eating turkey makes you sleepy because it contains tryptophan.
A particular Chinese pressure vessel can be used to cook popcorn faster than any other method.

– – – –

Next episode

– – – –

%d bloggers like this: