I‘m possibly about to lose all street cred I have when I say I spent my Friday night at a show by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, aka, The Mythbusters, but I had so little to begin with the loss may be imperceptible.
I was a bit perplexed how The Mythbusters, with a deep and abiding love of all things explosive, flammable, and otherwise probably not suitable for a theatre setting, would translate their usual fare to a live show. Turns out the sort of did it like a sketch comedy show, only with antics involving feats of strength, weird lenses, and “charmingly small” phone books.
And it was awesome! They had a variety of demonstrations they did, with lots of audience participation, and talked about how they make the show, how they approach the myths, and how they devise and execute the experiments to test them. The question and answer sections elicited a few standard sort of questions (scariest experiment, favourite experiment, etc.) and a few more unusual ones (what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever built out of duct tape, how old is your mustache, what’s in the drawer on the shop wall labelled raw meat, etc). Adam did his Jamie The Walrus impersonation and the David Attenborough schtick, Jamie was typically unflappable and nonplussed, and it was engaging, amusing, and probably caused the location staff to grip the arms of their chairs tightly at times.
And they said there’s no foreseeable end to Mythbusters. Hurray! More explosions and unabashed enthusiastic embracing of empirical evidence for everyone!
But possibly the best thing about the show (other than the high speed camera, which I want so badly but costs many thousands of dollars) was that the audience was full of kids, who were whooping and hollering and generally getting excited about science. Admittedly lots of them are probably getting excited about explosions and hot water heater rockets and things like that, but I like to think of those as stealth science. It’s science, and kids learn things about science from it, but it’s not someone sitting them down and saying “Okay, this is a scientific principle, and this is how xyz works…” I think this is something that they do very well – they engage people (including, very effectively, kids) in science without it having a Big Official Label on it, and I think that removes some of the mental barriers that some people have about science. Science is not some untouchable, inaccessible entity that’s presided over but scientists in ivory towers – it’s something the each of us experience and interact with constantly, whether we realize (or understand) it or not. De-mystifying science but empirically experimenting they way Mythbusters does helps bust that myth (ha!), and I’m thrilled that it’s as popular and enduring as it is.
Their live tour is almost done, I believe, but new episodes are now airing on Sunday evenings.