A conversation with the 'busters about the weird, surprising, and sometimes completely disgusting world of the Discovery Channel's cult TV show
To celebrate the new season of MythBusters (check out the epic sizzle reel here), which premiered Sunday night on the Discovery Channel, we asked hosts Jamie Hyneman, Adam Savage, Grant Imahara, Kari Byron, and Tory Belleci to pick the most insane myths they've ever tackled in their decade of busting.
Here's what they said.
CRAZIEST BOOM: Cement Truck Explosion, Season 3
Everybody seems to remember the cement truck as a favorite episode. We used 800 pounds of ANFO, which is a fertilizer/diesel fuel mix. The cement truck was there, and then it wasn't there. It was just gone, and that was cool.
BIGGEST SPECTACLE: Rocket Car, Season 1
We have yet to top what we did with the very first rocket car. Attaching rockets to a car, getting into a helicopter, and watching it take off and disappear—it doesn't get any better than that.
CRAZIEST MYTH FROM THE NEW SEASON: Riding A Motorcycle on Water
In terms of something that is like, "Can you actually do that?" one of my favorites this season is trying to ride a motorcycle across water. Having to push a motorcycle that's almost out-of-control fast to its very limits, and knowing that you're going to hit the water—who knows what's going to happen at that speed? It's thrilling, but your life is right there in front of you. We take all the safety precautions that we possibly can, but you play with fire, you can get burned. There was a problem with insurance on this story. They didn't want to let me do the test because of the potential of crashing on the far side of the water if I came out, so I figured out an ingenious way of solving that problem so that I could do the test.
MOST DANGEROUS MYTH: Escaping a Sinking Car, Season 8
A couple years after we did the first underwater car myth, we went and did it again—because most cars turn turtle when they hit the water, and it makes it much more confusing for the person who's in the car. The whole time we were leading up to it, Jamie and I were kind of spooked. It's not often we do something that's so dangerous. We thought through everything that could go wrong, and really addressed it. As I was sitting in the car on the barge in the middle of a quarry lake—Jamie was on the shore, about to give the signal to drag my car off the barge and pull it upside down—I thought, what the hell do we think we're doing? There's no permutation in which this is not totally insane. At this point I no longer think about it being crazy, but ... it's funny. You feel a little spooked about something, so you address what you're spooked about, but you never quite get rid of that feeling that you probably shouldn't be doing this. When we finally did the stunt, it worked beautifully, but we did need every safety procedure we had added. And my mom is still, to this day, not allowed to watch that episode.
CRAZY-FUN MYTH: Spy Car 2, Season 9
Jamie and I were testing myths about having spikes on your tire rims that tear up other cars. We built several different kinds—some from The Green Hornet, from Bond, and from Grease. You work out what you're going to do—you put spikes on the car, you make sure safety procedures are in place—and then you realize that this story requires Jamie and me to drive cars in the same direction at 40 mph and start smacking them into each other. It's one of the most fun things we've ever done, because when else do you get a chance to do something like that?
CRAZIEST MYTH FROM THE NEW SEASON: Airplane Boarding
We wanted to do a myth about boarding airplanes, but we couldn't find someone who would lend us a 747 to use for a day—so we built one. We rented enough seats and overhead bins for a full plane, we built a framework and a structure to hold them all in orientation, and the entire construction of that framework took—well, we only had two days to do it. We find ourselves in those parameters all the time, but that's the kind of challenge we really like.
BONUS! MYTH SO CRAZY THEY WON'T DO IT
There is a story that I don't want to do—it's just too freaking dangerous. It revolves around a truck full of liquid oxygen that has an accident and spills liquid oxygen all over the road. In order to make something burn, you need fuel and oxygen. A roadbed is a really nice bit of fuel because it's all petroleum-based, but it doesn't burn very well because it's very dense and all those molecules are tied up in the gummy asphalt. But liquid oxygen makes things [burn] like there's no tomorrow. In fact, it can take things like oily rags and turn them into—not even exaggerating—
GROSSEST MYTH: Making a Earwax Candle, Season 7
We were doing a myth from Shrek, where Shrek makes an earwax candle. A local ear/nose/throat doctor got us enough earwax—this is from hundreds of patients—to make a candle. It came in a little specimen jar, just a rainbow of colors. I didn't know that earwax came in so many colors! We decided that we would make a candle out of these bits of earwax by heating them up and melting them down. And that's when things went horribly wrong. We found out later on that the reason that the doctor had removed all the earwax from people's ears was because it was infected. And the smell that emanates from infected human earwax being heated caused instant dry heaves. I just could not deal, so I had to walk away from it. Everybody else formed it into a candle and then we tried to light it, but it didn't really work. That one was busted, and it was probably the grossest thing I've ever done in my life.
MOST INTENSE BUILD: Bifurcated Boat, Season 5
We had a myth in which a speedboat hit a pylon sticking out of the water and was supposedly almost cut in half. In the insurance claim, the guy said that he'd only been going 25 mph. So we decided to test this one out—but we couldn't do it on water because of all the environmental restrictions. If it works, and the boat sinks, there's a whole salvage issue. So we ended up towing the boat on land, and we then had to anchor this giant pylon in the middle of the runway at Alameda. And to make matters worse, it started raining. So we're out there arc welding in torrential rain, occasionally getting shocked by the welding equipment. It was successful in that we got the boat to hit the pylon, but we did not get a full bifurcation. It was probably one of the worst days I've ever had building something on location.
CRAZIEST MYTH FROM THE NEW SEASON: Hotel Room Parachute
We attempt to build a parachute made only out of materials you can find in a hotel room. Kari, Tory, and I each came up with and built our own design, but it was too dangerous for us to try out our own parachutes. We discussed doing it out over water, but in the end, we thought it was best to put Buster up to the task. Then we did small-scale tests with a bunch of materials that you could find in the rooms—sheets, duvet covers, shower curtains—and found the best material. Then we calculated, based on that data, what size parachute we had to make. And then we made a mega parachute.
CRAZY-GROSS MYTH: Son of a Gun, Season 3
Son of a Gun was a myth that during the Civil War, a musket ball went through a guy's testicles and into a gal's womb and impregnated her. It was when we were more unregulated, and probably didn't have as many children watching, so to test it, we had to come up with a large sample of ... genetic legacy, if you will. This was before we could collect it from doctors, so everybody in the shop donated some of theirs and brought it in. [laughs] When we were interviewed for this job, one of the things they asked us was would we be willing to donate bodily fluids. I've personally given vomit, blood, urine, flatulence. I've not had to donate any fecal matter—but I have given my dogs', if that counts. Yeah. It's a pretty weird job.
CRAZIEST EXPLOSION: Creamer Cannon, Season 7
We've done a lot of big explosions, but for me, the craziest explosion was Creamer Cannon. It's from a YouTube video where guys put coffee creamer over a lighter, and it makes this big poof of flame. We super-sized it: Giant air cannons and 500 pounds of coffee creamer with flares on top. And poof!—it made this big cloud, and we didn't think it was going to light, but then all of a sudden the flare lights it and it turns into this growling monster of sugary coffee creamer on fire in the sky. It looked like Apocalypse Now. I swear it growled. And then the wind changed, and it started coming at us. We're used to working with things like C4 and propane, explosives that are known to be excitable, but we were a little too close to the range of the coffee creamer. I had so much fear in my heart, I just started running. It was like, napalm of sugar balls falling from the sky. The cleanup was disgusting.
CRAZIEST MYTH FROM THE NEW SEASON: Halloween Special
For our Halloween special, we tested the smell of fear. To do that, we had to scare the crap out of each other. We picked out some different creepy crawlies that would be covering us as we were lying in a locked glass coffin until we were shaking and produced fear sweat, which is supposed to smell different than exercise sweat. At one point I had a scorpion on my face. It was terrifying.
MOST LOGISTICALLY CHALLENGING (according to Kari and Grant, too!): Luxury Car Drop
The craziest myth we've ever done was when we dropped a car from a helicopter and had another car racing across the desert to see if the car on the ground was faster than the car falling from the sky. It was from a luxury car commercial. And the logistics—there was this 30,000 foot safety zone that we couldn't be in, because this car was dropping from 3000 feet in the air. Being able to coordinate having the helicopter dropping a car, and having a remote control car racing to meet it, was one of the craziest things we've ever pulled off.
CRAZIEST BUILD: Compact Compact, Season 3
The myth was that two semi trucks got in a head-on collision and were so mangled that they had to be pulled apart by workers at a junkyard, who discovered a compact car with a family in it between the trucks. We had three days to do it, and to pull that off was an engineering feat. Obviously nobody could drive trucks, and we couldn't pull the trucks on tow cables like we would normally, because the two trucks were coming in opposite directions. So we had to put a pulley system in the center of the runway, and put the compact car on top of that, and the cables went off in 90 degree angles from the pulley—so imagine a T-shape, and on either end of the T was a semi-truck, and driving perpendicular were the two tow vehicles that were actually pulling the trucks together using cables. That was pretty insane. And to see two semi trucks in a head-on collision that close, it was just—all this energy, all this power, and as soon as they hit, they just exploded and all that energy tore the trucks apart. It was incredible—like The Matrix Reloaded, you know that scene? Except they did it with CG, and we did it in real life.
CRAZIEST MYTH FROM THE NEW SEASON: Rocket Surfer
The story is that a surfer from California moves to the Midwest, and he misses surfing, so he straps a rocket to a surfboard and surfs across a lake. We did all these tests with Buster on the surfboard. One rocket didn't last long enough, so we got multiple rockets to space out the ignition so we could get a longer thrust. I built a bank of 200 model rockets that went off every 3 seconds, so that we could get a consistent ride. And at the last minute, the insurers said I could ride it. People were like "What if it explodes, or catches on fire and you die?" But I was more worried that I wasn't going to be able to hang on. It was one of the coolest things I've ever done on the show.
A version of this post originally appeared on Mental Floss, an Atlantic partner site.