In a culture that treats truth as relative, Mythbusters (Discovery Network) is a breath of fresh air. The show's affable crew of experts and handymen takes urban legends-those "true stories" that circulate from person to person-and puts them to the test.
Would dropping a penny off the top of the Empire State Building generate enough momentum to kill a person? No. The mass is too small to even break the skin. Is the "Five Second Rule" valid when you drop a piece of food? No. Measurements showed no difference in the amount of bacteria from two seconds on the floor as compared to six seconds. Nor can a small hole in an airplane suck you out of the fuselage. Nor can a cell phone ignite a gasoline pump. Nor can a tanning bed fry your insides.
Of course, even legends can be true. The Mythbusters crew finds that eating poppy seeds can indeed cause a false positive on a drug test for heroin. Using too many bug bombs can cause a house to explode. It is possible to fly using weather balloons attached to a lawn chair, with a controlled descent using an air gun to pop the balloons.
Watching the team design the tests is both hilarious and fascinating. To determine whether the parental warnings about ceiling fans are valid-that they can cut your head off if you bounce on your bed-the hosts, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, engineered a fake head and neck using plasticine gel that simulates the human body, artificial skin molded to look like Adam, and a hog's spine. They then bounced it in a ceiling fan. Doing that in real life would hurt, and it would break the blades, but the head would remain attached to the neck. Objective truth exists after all.