MythBusters Recap: Blow Us Awayby Alan Eggleston / July 19, 2015
Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are back! The summer episodes of season 13 of MythBusters kicked off Saturday night with “Blow It Out of the Water.”
You can take the adage literally — to actually blow something out of the water, or you can take it metaphorically — to blow something away. And Adam and Jamie tested both in this, um, explosive episode.
Blow It Out, Not Up
First up was the literal.
The adage originated during World War II when naval officers would detonate explosives under ships and watch the ships literally blow up (or lift) out of water.
To test if that is really possible, Adam and Jamie start with a small tank of water and a toy boat, setting off miniature explosives at various depths beneath the boat to determine the right depth that will send the boat flying instead of blowing it to smithereens. It takes three attempts, but halfway between the surface and the tank bottom is the “Goldilocks” (just right) depth.
Then Adam and Jamie bring a life-size boat to a quarry (called Pit 32), where they can safely blow up any boat. (Note: The water is highly acidic, so nothing lives in the water, making it safe to blow things up without harming any life.)
Tethered to the shore to keep the boat from moving, Adam and Jamie are ready to ramp up the test.
They pack 1,000 pounds of ANFO slow-speed explosives with 1,500 pounds of sand (for ballast) inside a septic tank, which they dangle beneath the boat halfway between the surface and the bottom of the quarry. Using slow-speed explosive is better because high-speed explosives is more likely rip the boat apart.
Once everything is rigged, Adam calls the countdown, but nothing happens. He tries again. Again, nothing happens: “Well, that’s anticlimactic.”
After rewiring the device, it is one more time into the breach. “3-2-1,” and kablam!
With a huge woosh the water in the quarry plumes up and pieces of the boat shower over the surface of the quarry. “Wow, look at that!” says a totally surprised Adam.
Jamie concludes that “unless the boat is really strong, there is no Goldilocks formula for placing the explosive.” The explosion creates a hot ball of gas that shoots up like cannon shot straight up into the hull of the boat, shattering it.
- Conclusion? Busted.
Blow the Bad Guys to Bits, But Survive Yourself
Then there was the metaphorical.
In the finale of the Breaking Bad TV series Walter, the main character, sets up an M-60 Vietnam-war era machine gun in the trunk of his hefty sedan to go off at the click of a key-chain fob, which shoots through a building exterior, killing all the bad guys — Nazis — as Walter dives to the floor and survives. He metaphorically “blows them out of the water.”
Analyzing a clip of that Breaking Bad episode, Adam and Jamie create a replica of the machine-gun rig using an office-chair base, a garage-door opener, crescent wrenches interlocked as a swivel arm, automatic car-door openers to fire the trigger, and a piece of conduit to house the machine gun. After fitting the pieces together and testing them to take the jolt action of the gun, they finally bolt the rig into the trunk of their hefty sedan and wire it to a battery in the back seat. On hand to verify the authenticity of the test is Breaking Bad series creator Vince Gilligan.
Adam and Jamie build a stucco building with windows behind which they set up plywood “Nazis” — a plywood “Walter” lies along the floor — and Adam, Jamie, and Vince saunter off with the key-ring fob to the safety-glass shelter for the test.
Adam shouts out the countdown and clicks the fob – but nothing happens. Once again, “3-2-1” and clicks the fob – but nothing. Carefully, the crew examines the rig set to let off 200 live rounds of bullets. They remove a blockage and it’s ready to go.
Once again, Adam calls out the countdown and clicks the fob. The M-60 rattles off all 200 rounds from inside the car trunk, leaving holes in the side of the car and firing holes in the building and through the windows. On inspection, Adam and Jamie also find holes in each of the bad guys — but Walter is untouched.
“It’s gobsmacking disturbing how effective a booby trap Walt designed,” says Adam, “and we’ve been able to replicate it in an actual experiment. I’m thrilled!” Vince Gilligan is pretty amazed himself.
- Conclusion: Plausible.
Next week’s MythBusters is titled “Flights of Fantasy,” featuring a flight in a U-2 spy plane and something about commercial package delivery by multi-rotor drones. Could Adam’s geek get any higher? Tune in on July 25 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on Discovery to find out.