20 “Mythbusters” Episodes That Changed The Way You Thought About Everything

October 29, 2019

Almost everybody has followed the five-second rule. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s basically an unspoken grace period for fallen food. While it sounds gross and has no scientific validity, myths, like these, are widespread and largely believed as fact.

Have you wondered if you could really make a bullet out of ice? Or, maybe you just wanted to see what would happen if you blew stuff up.

If these questions pestered you way past childhood, you’re not alone and are in luck.

Chances are whatever chaos your imagination can come up with, Mythbusters’ was there to see if it could come true. The show was a powerhouse series that ran for 14 seasons finally ending its run in 2016.

Throughout the series, hosts Adam and Jamie invented new and creative ways to test some of the world’s most iconic myths.

Everything from throwing a penny off the Empire State Building to whether yodeling could really cause an avalanche was tested, with the science explaining exactly why it was or wasn’t possible.

Unfortunately, with great myths comes the high possibility that they were in fact just an urban legend. Sometimes the debunking of these great fables sort of let us down a bit. But, that’s what made the show all the more fun and fascinating to watch.

Bringing real technology and science into the corners of our wildest dreams kept us glued to our TV screens waiting to see what would happen next. And, if the impossible was really possible.

Here’s a look back at some of the most epic myths that got busted, so you can relive the insane testing that brought these crazy superstitions to life.

Somehow, we can believe these myths weren’t real.

Wikimedia Commons

As kids it was common knowledge on the playground that you could use a bed sheet as a parachute, or milk to alleviate the pain of spicy foods.

It was never something we had even dreamed could not be true, until the Mythbusters came along that is.

Myth: You Can Sink In Quicksand

Mythbusters'/Discovery Channel

We don’t know about you, but as kids we were terrified of quicksand. We also, for some reason, thought it would play a much bigger role in our lives than it has. Which I guess is a bonus?

With the popularity of quicksand deaths and near-deaths in film, you would think we would be seeing news about these tragedies in real life, as well. But if you do a Google search, nothing will turn up for one reason that Mythbusters answered:

 Can you die from sinking to your death in quicksand?

According to the Mythbusters, no.

As it turns out, quicksand is even denser than water, which means your body wouldn’t be able to sink it in because your buoyancy would be too great.

The friction between the sand particles is much-reduced, meaning it can’t support your weight anymore and at first you do sink,” BBC warns. “Although quicksand doesn’t continue to pull you right under, if you can’t get free in time, a high tide can sweep across you.”

Britannica broke the science down, as well, explaining, “People and animals can get stuck in it, but they don’t get sucked down to the bottom—they float on the surface.”

“Our legs are pretty dense, so they may sink, but the torso contains the lungs, and thus is buoyant enough to stay out of trouble,” the site added.

If you’re stuck in quicksand you would more likely die from exposure to the elements or an animal attack.

According to Britannica, “It’s basically impossible to die in the way that is depicted in movies.”

The BBC, cautions, “Dry quicksand, however, is another matter entirely. The quicksand effect means that falling into a silo full of grain can often be fatal.”

So, it’s still probably best to avoid it as a whole though.

Myth: You Can Kill Someone By Dropping A Penny Off Of The Empire State Building

We’re not sure of the exact origin of this particular myth, but loads of kids were convinced that people could die from it – and it was scary.

Some heard the “story” of a person who, allegedly stood on the observation deck of the Empire State Building and threw a penny to make a wish.

In the untrue, urban legend, the penny falls and kills a pedestrian on the sidewalk below.

To test if it was possible, the team made a special gun that could fire a penny at the same speed it would reach if dropped from the top of the building. (64.4 miles per hour.)

Luckily, they tested it on a ballistics dummy.

When launched into the dummy, there was such little damage caused, they decided to shoot each other.

It hurt a bit, but didn’t cause any real harm.

The truth is, while the Empire State Building is tall, it’s not tall enough for a penny to reach the velocity needed to kill anyone.

The urban legend, however, does contain an important reminder.

How Stuff Works, points out, “The grain of truth embedded in this urban legend is the fact that falling objects—even ones that seem harmless—can do a lot of damage.”

“That’s why people on construction sites wear hard hats. If a big nut or bolt weighing 50 grams (about 1.8 ounces) falls and hits you on the head, it’s going to do some serious damage, and depending on the height it falls from, it could definitely kill you if it hit right on top of your skull,” the site added.

Myth: You Can Cut A Car In Half Using The Doors Of An Elevator

Mythbusters/Discovery

It’s a common theme in action movies that getaway cars can go through just about anything, including getting cut in half by an elevator to escape.

But how much of that is just Hollywood story telling?

Well, in conjunction with The Green Hornet, the Mythbusters tested if it was even possible.

They even built an exact replica of the car.

After finishing the car, they shot dozens of bullets at it and then tried to use the elevator doors to cut the car in half. Somewhat unsurprisingly, it didn’t work. Safe to say that some myths are best kept in movie magic.

Myth: The Five Second Rule

Accidents happen right? And for most of our lives we were taught about the “five second rule.”

According to legend, if you dropped a piece of food on the ground, you had a whole five seconds to pick it up before it wasn’t safe it eat.

Beloved chef Julia Child, who revolutionized American cuisine, popularized the attitude on a 1963 episode of Julia Child’s cooking show The French Chef, according to Science Friday.

After her potato pancake landed on the stovetop, she said, “When I flipped it, I didn’t have the courage to do it the way I should’ve. But you can always pick it up if you’re alone in the kitchen. Who is going to see?”

She believed, it caused no harm.

Turns out, that’s not exactly true.

When the show tested it out they discovered the horrifying truth.

According to the results, food gets infected with various forms of bacteria the second it hits the ground. We’re talking like milliseconds. So, if you drop something on the ground, maybe think twice about picking it up.

Robyn Miranda, a Ph.D candidate in food science at Rutgers University, published a study investigating the myth from a public health standpoint.

Some of her finds were quite interesting and confirmed longer contact times to the floor or any surface results in transfer of more bacteria.

Myth: You Can Use A Bed Sheet As A Parachute

Mythbusters/Discovery Channel

In theory, it makes sense, if you were in an emergency situation, that a sheet could be used as a makeshift parachute.

The idea isn’t necessarily an urban myth, but more of a practical thought.

Turns out, it became one of their favorite experiments of all time.

But is it possible?

The team tested the myth using only materials that were commonly found in a hotel room.

However, it was too dangerous to actually test the parachutes they made by themselves so they did a small test to see if it was possible.

Unfortunately you can’t use a single bed sheet because it isn’t thick enough.

One crazy experiment they also tried with bed sheets? Whether a prisoner could escape by climbing down a wall using a rope made of bed sheets.

Their finding? According to the site, MythBusters Results, dedicated to recording the show’s findings, yes.

“Grant found that making his bed sheet rope was very easy and quick in comparison to the toilet paper and hair ropes,” the site revealed.

“During the test, the rope held Grant’s weight and he successfully descended to the ground,” MythBusters Results concluded.

Myth: You Can Shoot A Hat Off A Cowboy

Mythbusters/DiscoveryChannel

Is there anything better than a good old-fashioned western standoff?

Movies and TV shows set in the Wild West make it seem like you could shoot the cowboy hat right off of a person’s head – assuming you had good enough aim.

Well, the team put together a ton of “old-timey” weapons and put it to the test.

The hat didn’t come off as easily as expected from the dummy head. Most bullets don’t transfer enough force.

Pistols, and rifles both ended up being total busts. Not to mention likely fatal to any human being standing under the hat, and absolutely no flying.

“While pistols and rifles were ineffective, the MythBusters found that shotgun shells could make a hat fly into the air since the birdshot provided greater surface area to transfer the force of the shell,” MythBusters Results revealed.

“However, the birdshot also peppered the dummy in a fashion that would be fatal to a human being,” the site concluded.

On the same episode, the crew also tested if a prisoner can be freed from an Old West jail cell with a single stick of dynamite.

To prove or debunk the theory, the MythBusters gang placed a single stick of dynamite on the cell window and detonated it, with Buster inside to test whether the occupant would survive.

According to the site MythBusters Results, “While the dynamite did not cause any significant damage to the wall, it did loosen the bars enough for Adam to pull them out and escape.”

“However, the blast set off all of the shock pads on Buster, indicating that even though a single stick of dynamite exploding would allow him to escape, the shock of the blast would kill him first, busting the myth,” they continued.

A better way? Using an axe could achieve the same amount of damage, with significantly less noise.

Myth: If You Attach Spikes To Cars It Can Slash Tires While Moving

In pretty much every spy movie ever made there is a pivotal car chase seen.

During the chase there is always that moment where the bad guy has spikes come out of the side of the car and begins to cut into the hero’s car and tires.

Now, this may seem like a bit of a farfetched myth, but the team decided to test it anyway.

The process was relatively dangerous since it involved driving cars extremely close to each other and at speeds over 50mph. However, Jamie said they had a ton of fun with it. Sadly though for all of your aspiring eccentric villains out there, the trick wasn’t exactly possible. *Sigh*

Myth: You Can Make A Disappearing Bullet Out Of Ice

Mythbusters/Discovery Channel

Let’s get something out in the open, most of us at one point or another have tried to come up with a way to commit the perfect crime. (It’s ok, you can admit it.) A common method listed is using a bullet made of ice to shoot someone since it would be untraceable.

This ended up being one of the first myths the team tackled.

Sadly, this one was far from feasible. The bullet would melt before it was even fired from the gun.

Mainly because ice is so brittle the force of the gun is enough to make it shatter before even leaving the barrel.

Maybe that’s for the best. As much as we’d like to think we could get away with anything, like the show How To Get Away With Murder, criminologists and scientists work so hard to ensure nobody can ever commit that “perfect crime.”

Myth: You Can Kill Someone Using An Underwater Blow Dart

The Mythbusters were hands down one of the coolest teams ever assembled on TV, and that’s how they came up with some of the coolest experiments ever – like our universal desire to become ninjas.

The team decided to try and see if it was really possible to kill someone using an underwater blow dart.

You know, like in the movies.

The test ended up failing, but was super interesting to watch.

Sadly, because the blow dart gun was so hard to assemble and reload, there was a lot of missed targets.

We’re still secretly hoping this one is feasible, because ninja’s can do anything right?

Myth: You Can Make A Working Death Ray Out Of A Mirror

Mythbusters/Discover Channel

Evil geniuses and scientists alike have all tried their luck at taking over the world (ok, fictional worlds, but still.) And normally, one of their most commonly built contraptions, is a death ray. While, it might seem dangerous, Adam and Jamie threw their hat in the ring.

Naturally, no actual living beings were harmed.

They tried to use solar power and make the death ray out of mirrors. The idea was that the light would generate enough heat to create a laser. However, a huge number of mirrors were needed.

Even then, it could only generate enough heat to mildly hit their target.

Myth officially busted.

Myth: You Can Ride A Motorcycle On Water

This myth sounds fairly ridiculous off the bat, but the idea that you could in theory ride a motorcycle fast enough that it could move across water is just plain awesome.

Can you actually do that?

The real issue with the test didn’t involve the test itself, but the insurance on it.

So the team had to re-work the experiment, so it would be safe enough for the team to try.

Sadly, you won’t be able to rev your Harley across a lake anytime soon.

Myth: There’s A Frequency That Will Cause You To Release Your Bowels

Mythbuster/Discover Channel

To be honest, we’re not really sure if we needed this myth tested, nor does it sound like a fun way to spend an afternoon.

The experiment consisted of Adam standing in a diaper in a sound booth while different sound frequencies were played.

Thankfully it didn’t work. Cause, yuck.

Adam reportedly only felt some mild discomfort in his chest after a day of the sound test, but he said he was never close to losing his bowels.

Myth: Banana Peels Are Incredibly Slippery

We’ve all seen the classic comedy routine of a comic slipping on a banana peel and falling right to the ground.

Even in a real life context it seems like the fruit would be easy to trip on and seriously injure yourself.

Well, guess we’ve all been worried for nothing.

The team tried multiple rounds of tests with different bananas, but none of the peels proved slick enough to lose your balance on.

Somehow we think we’ll continue to be clumsy all by ourselves.

The myth has a little merit, as “under pressure, a banana peel oozes a gel that turns out to be extremely slippery,” according to Science Friday.

Myth: Yodeling Can Cause An Avalanche

Mythbusters/Discovery Channel

High on a hill yodelers everywhere will be happy to hear this myth was busted. The old adage is that if you yodel too loudly it can cause an avalanche.

Thankfully, singers everywhere can belt it out as loudly as they’d like.

Despite the best efforts of the team’s singing ability, no amount of yodeling can cause enough sound to trigger an dangerous avalanche.

Feel free to yodel away.

Now, whether anyone else wants to hear it or not is another story entirely.

Myth: You Can Catch A Bullet With Your Teeth

Somehow, (and really we can’t believe a myth like this ever took off) it became legend that you could catch a bullet with your teeth if you angled it right and were highly skilled.

The myth was tested using an slaughtered pig’s head.

Ick.

Despite pig teeth being much stronger than a regular humans, the jaw was still severely damaged.

So, there is no way a human could ever perform such a stunt.

How cool would that have been though?

Myth: You Can Send Someone Into The Air If You Land Hard Enough On A Seesaw

Mythbusters/Discovery Channel

While it would seem nearly impossible from the start to think a skydiver would be able to land on the exact end of a seesaw to send someone in the air, it was still worth trying for the crew.

Tried, very very carefully.

While this myth does seem like a lot of fun, and it would be exciting to fly into the air, all of the dummy’s involved in the test came back incredibly damaged.

Can’t say we’re too surprised on this one.

Myth: Pirates Used To Use Swords To Swing Down The Sails Of Ships

A pirate’s life for me! And, for the Mythbusters.

The team decided to test out the idea from an iconic movie scene (we’re talking about you, Pirates of the Caribbean) and see if you could feasibly slide down the sail of a ship with a sword.

As fun as this test was, it the myth was busted.

Honestly, we’re still upset about this one.

However, the results determined it would be too impossible that the sword would be sharp enough to cut through the sail, but dull enough to not tear the whole thing apart at once.

Myth: You Can Use Toothpaste And Petroleum Jelly To Help With Spicy Foods

We’ve all had that terrible moment where you eat something way too spicy and have to deal with the burning sensation.

You try water, take deep breaths, and count the seconds until the pain subsides. There are dozens of urban legends about which foods can help the pain go away.

The results won’t have you running for your medicine cabinet.

While the team tested various cures, even trying to put petroleum jelly on their tongues (ew.)

But, the only real help was milk.

So next time you take a bite of something spicy, make sure you have some nearby. You know, just in case.

Myth: You Can Use A Row Boat As a Makeshift Submarine

Mythbusters/Discovery Channel

It’s a popular scene in Pirates Of The Caribbean when Jack and Will use a simple rowboat to make a submarine buy turning it upside down.

Would it really create an air pocket allowing you to breath underwater?

Sadly, no.

This is another movie myth that is in no way rooted in science. The reason? The human body is too buoyant and would float up to the very top of the boat.

Myth: You Can Explode A Scuba Tank By Shooting It

If you’re scuba diving and decide to get into a row with a shark, trust us, it’s better to hold onto your scuba tank. Somehow the idea that a tank would fully explode when shot gained major popularity.

The reality was much less exciting.

When tested the results were basically that the tank flew around like an air rocket, but came no where near close to exploding. Good news is, if you get into an underwater fight, your tank is in good shape.