Over 1,000 myths tested, 920 Explosions, and 83 miles of duct tape. It’s only appropriate that we here send off a final salute to the Mythbusters for the 14 years of hard work and for bringing the scientific method back into the public discourse. As the internet arose, the Mythbusters came onto television at the perfect time: the internet by 2003 had become a hotbed for all of the urban legends past and present, unfounded or untested science myths, and the very questionable science too often reported in journalism. They even broke new ground by sharing their financial resources with underfunded universities to make new discoveries and publish papers, exploring and gathering crucial data that otherwise would never have been studied.
The show also gave so many viewers the ability to debunk the ridiculous conspiracy theories of your friends, relatives, and neighbors. Through science. (Yeah, sorry, Jimmy, but no, Stanley Kubrick did not fake the moon landing. I can tell you the facts, but if you still cling to that nonsense, just watch that Mytbusters episode so that I never have to hear you ramble “with authority” to a room full of people about it ever again.)
The Mythbusters brought the scientific method back into vogue in daily conversations across the world and helped to inspire many young people to get into STEM programs and careers. The impact can’t really be measured; that would require another episode of Mythbusters to comb through the data, and the doors behind M5 are now closed to cameras and crew.
After the the series finale that aired Saturday night, March 5, 2016, the Discovery Channel aired a reunion special with all five hosts: Jamie Hyneman, Adam Savage, Tory Bellici, Grant Imahara, and Kari Byron. After cutbacks on the last season, Tory, Grant, and Kari left the show in an abrupt, undisclosed, and mysterious manner. For long-time fans upset by their firing/quitting, this reunion was incredibly cathartic. Watching the five hosts reminisce together for an hour in such a loving and touching manner even made me feel emotionally satisfied.
During the moving reunion, the five were given good-bye video messages from President Obama, Neil de Grasse Tyson, James Cameron, Astronaut and Commander Chris Hadfield, Stephen Colbert, and Chris Hardwick. Some of the five were even brought to tears by such an outpouring of gratitude and respect for their work.
There was also a moving letter from a woman whose life was “literally turned around” by the show. She went from going an aimless school student to becoming the first woman in her family to go to university. Now she is starting her master’s in chemical engineering.
Another clip showed that the “Underwater Car” episodes saved the lives of a mother and her infant daughter when they themselves crashed and sunk into water. Because the mother learned the best method proven by the Mythbusters and executed it (calmly waiting until the water fills the car to the point when the pressure inside of the car and the water are equal so that the door opens easily), she was able to save both of their lives.
That is just the tip of the iceberg on how this team changed many lives by inspiring and teaching people how to think critically using the scientific method to improve their lives and those around them. How many other shows were or are like that airing today?
I can only hope, believe... No, I can only do my best to calculate how the show improved the lives of many and raised the intellectual and scientific level of discourse in society at large. In 2002, the internet was full of myths and no other way to ask about the truth behind these myths besides word of mouth. Mythbusters changed the international discourse both on the internet and in real world conversations, and they improved both. How often can you say that about a team of dedicated people, much less a TV show?
All of their hard work is an incredible service to humanity as we go into the future. And so, I thank them for their contributions that exist on so many levels that I can’t take the time to list them. The very least I can say is that they helped foster the geek revolution and spread scientific reasoning and ideas over unsubstantiated stories and baseless beliefs through scientific demonstration during every single episode.
They also got to explode a whole lot of things.
To paraphrase Captain Kirk’s last words: “It was fun.” And to paraphrase Jamie: “Big boom. Jamie wants big boom.” They certainly went out with a caring and moving “big boom” this Saturday night.
I look forward to binge-watching my favorite episodes soon.
Please share your own thoughts on how Mythbusters contributed to your life and how you think it helped to change the world for the better (through science, of course). And a lot of fun.