I've pretty much stopped watching science and engineering TV shows because their information density is often so low. Mythbusters is no exception, but this clever YouTube channel helpfully edits the 44-minute episodes down to a svelte and info-packed 2-5 minutes. (via digg)
Can't get enough of the Leidenfrost effect? I know! Me either! In addition to helping with nonstick cooking, the L. effect also allows you to stick your hand into an 850° pot of molten lead without injury.
Skip to 1:55 for the good stuff. Bananas! Absolutely bananas! Oh, and this also works for liquid nitrogen as well. (thx, kyle)
Starting in about 40 minutes, I'll be liveblogging the Mythbusters episode where they take on the infamous airplane on a conveyor belt problem. Updates will be reverse chronological (newest at the top) so don't scroll down if you're DVRing the episode for later viewing or otherwise don't want anything spoiled.
Fair warning? Ok here we go.
10:32p I've turned comments on. Why not!!
The plane took off so easily. The laws of physics are proven correct once again. But I'm not sure this is going to settle anything. I'm getting email as we speak that the test was unfair. Plane was too light. Tarp was pulled too slowly. Etc. But the thing is, it doesn't matter how large the plane is...given enough runway and a strong enough conveyor belt, it will still take off. Ditto for the speed of the treadmill...it doesn't matter how fast the treadmill is moving. It could be going 300 mph in the opposite direction and as long as the bearings in the plane's wheels don't melt, it's gonna take off. (For an explanation, try this one by my friend Mouser, who has a MIT Ph.D in Physics Sc.D. in Nuclear Science and Engineering.)
9:58p Update: Due to popular demand, the above graphic is available on a t-shirt at CafePress. Prices start at $18 and they're available in men's and women's sizes.
Heeeeeeeere we go.
The pilot flying the ultralight is predicting that he won't be able to take off.
Cockroach mini-myth: cockroaches would survive a nuclear blast longer than humans but there were other kinds of bugs that fared better. Another commercial.
Back to the shaving cream in the car prank. Now they're going to use A-B foam...they're trying to fill all the space in the car and perhaps explode it. Totally worked.
Expedia commercial. Nice synergistic placement. Good work, Discovery Channel's ad sales team.
Ok, to do the large-scale plane test, they're using a 2000 foot tarp and a 400 pound ultralight. Tarp is pulled in one direction and the plane tries to take off in the other direction. The wind is picking up and blowing the tarp runway all over the place. They're also having problems with punching holes in the tarp. They're going to try again after we hear some more about radioactive cockroaches. Aaaand, another commercial.
Second mini-myth: if you freeze a can of shaving cream, cut it open, and then put the foam in a car, it will heat and expand to fill the car. One can did almost nothing. 50 cans didn't do too much either.
Off to commercial again. Macbook Air ad. I don't understand all the whining about how expensive and underpowered it is. You can't get by with an 80 GB hard drive? Come on.
Now a bit of explanation from the boys. (Things are moving faster now, which is welcome.) The thrust from the airplane acts upon the air so it doesn't matter too much what the runway is doing to the plane's wheels. And then back to the roach thing. They irradiated them (and some other bugs) and most of the roaches died. Still pending...
Ok, they're dragging paper behind a Segway and trying to take off with the model airplane in the opposite direction. IT JUST TOOK OFF.
Back to the roach thing. More recapping and a little bit more setup. I don't see how people can watch this show...it's sooooo slooooow. And now another commercial break. Hello picture-in-picture.
As expected, the model airplane "flew" off the end of the exercise treadmill. It didn't have enough room to take off, but if it stayed straight, it probably would have.
First recap...they took a solid minute to explain what they've already done. Ugh.
Going into the first commercial, we've caught a glimpse of how they're going to test the main myth. They're going to drag a huge plastic sheet long the ground and have the plane sit on the plastic and being going the other way attempting to take off. A reasonable substitute for the treadmill.
They're starting off small with a model airplane on an exercise treadmill. They're showing the two hosts learning how to fly the tiny airplane. One of them is riding around on a Segway. Oh, and they're also doing two other mini-myths during the episode. They just switched gears to the first mini-myth: can a cockroach survive a nuclear blast?
And we're off. They're calling it "the moment we've all been waiting for". My guess: the plane will take off.
I've only watched one other episode of Mythbusters before today. I found the show to be a little slow and very repetitive; 8 minutes of material stretched into 45 minutes of show. Unfortunately, this practice seems to be common among science programs on television.
Watching Family Guy as a warmup. The one with the nudist family. Good stuff.
Preemptive answer for the inevitable "Do you realize how boring/stupid/goofy it is to liveblog this?" Most definitely.
First up, for those concerned that this story has been cancelled, don't worry, planes on a conveyer belt has been filmed, is spectacular, and will be part of what us Mythbusters refer to as 'episode 97'. Currently that is due to air on January 30th.
Secondly, for those very aggrieved fans feeling "duped" into watching tonight's show, I can only apologise. I'm not sure why the listings / internet advertised that tonight's show contained POCB. I will endeavour to find out an answer but for those conspiracy theorists amongst you, I can assure you that it will have just been an honest mistake.
Not sure that's going to quench the nerdfury, but I'm glad the piece will air in January.
If a plane is traveling at takeoff 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 quarter-mile conveyor belt and tested it out," says Savage about the experiment using a pilot and his Ultralight plane. "I won't tell you what the outcome was, but the pilot and his entire flight club got it wrong."
Awesome. If the laws of physics hold, that plane should take off. (thx, matt)