SAN FRANCISCO--For some of the nearly 100,000 followers of "MythBusters" star Adam Savage's Twitter feed, communicating with him has proven to be more than just your average back-and-forth. For some, it's been a way to submit ideas that he and his Discovery Channel show costars have used for actual episodes.
On October 7, Discovery will begin airing its fall collection of new "MythBusters" episodes, and Savage said that he and costar Jamie Hyneman have taken at least four ideas that have come directly from Twitter users and implemented them on the show.
Among them are exploring the myth that dirty cars are more fuel efficient than clean ones; one that addresses the reality of a YouTube video in which a man shoots high off a huge water slide and lands, far in the distance, in a small inflatable pool; and one about insects.
To Savage, Twitter has become a terrific way for him to have a dialogue with the show's fans, especially since he says that the highly negative tone of the comments in the show's official forums turns him off and distracts him from doing his job.
By comparison, he said that because his Twitter followers know that he reads all of the tweets sent to him, there's somewhat of a "social contract" involved that improves the conversation. "I still have disagreements with people on Twitter," Savage said. "But it's much more civilized, and for me as a person who wants to give more value to the fans, I think about what I would want to read of someone who I admired, so I post funny things from behind the set" and lots of personal anecdotes.
For Hyneman, by contrast, Twitter, or any other social network, for that matter, isn't useful, and has actually become a bit of a distraction at work.
"I do notice that it's increasingly difficult to get Adam's attention when we're trying to work," Hyneman said, "because (if) you give him an instant of inactivity...it's like, okay," and he starts to use his iPhone.
Asked why he has an iPhone, Savage said only that he is "an Apple Kool-Aid drinker from way back...and I love everything they produce."
Duct tape and much more
This fall, just as has been the case since "MythBusters" first got started, Savage and Hyneman have been scouring the world for things that pique their curiosity. Indeed, the show has taken the two--plus the show's other team of co-stars, Kari Byron, Grant Imahara and Tory Belleci--on an unending quest for myths to bust that present them with a sense of adventure.
But this fall, viewers will see more on the show about duct tape, probably, than they ever thought possible. In fact, what started as a path towards a single segment on the popular adhesive ended up resulting in an entire duct tape special.
Both teams of "MythBusters" actually did two or three duct tape stories, Savage explained. "Some spectacular stuff came out of that," he said, "and if we could, we'd just move on to more duct tape stuff. But we've got to space it out so we don't over-duct tape the audience."
And while they wouldn't reveal too many details of what they'd done with the famous grey tape, Hyneman did allow that, in one situation, "We were on our way out the Golden Gate Bridge and had to turn back because the camera crew was complaining that they were getting too wet from the rough seas."
Whether that explains the boat covered in duct tape that is now hanging from the ceiling at M5 Industries, the San Francisco studio space where Hyneman and Savage do their work, is hard to say. But the boat is clearly from the duct tape special.
And while the two are cagey about much of what's coming up in the fall's episodes, they did share some information about one or two myths they attempted to bust.
One is the idea that a prisoner could use thousands of antacid tablets to create enough pressure to bust out of his or her cell. The two wouldn't say what the outcome of their experiment with more than 20,000 antacid tablets was, but they did admit that they were able to bust through a scale model of a jail cell made out of glass.
"It comes down to how well is the cell built," joked Hyneman.
The two were also willing to talk about the segment they did for one of the upcoming episodes on the aerodynamics of dirty cars, one of the myths that came from Twitter.
The myth, explained Savage, is that a dirty car is more fuel efficient than a clean one due to the "golf ball effect" caused by the dirt. The idea, he said, is that the dirt creates something of a "boundary layer that allows the car to be more aerodynamic."
Neither Savage nor Hyneman would say what the results of their investigation was, but Hyneman did say that they were both "very, very surprised (by) the results" and that what they found will be "of quite a lot of interest to the automotive industry."
Still another future episode has to do with the physics of bullet ricochets and whether it is possible for a shooter to hit him or herself with a bullet shot in an enclosed space. The results of that experiment also took the two by surprise, particularly because, as Hyneman said, "there are some basic flaws in the concept that you see in the movies with this 'ding-ding-ding and down you go.'"
At a much higher level now
"MythBusters" has now completed production on 134 episodes, and to Hyneman, that much experience has allowed him and Savage to be much more advanced in their approach to busting myths than they were at the beginning.
"The kinds of insights that we're seeing as far as the physics and the chemistry (and) all the dynamics of what's going on there," Hyneman said, "we're starting out at a much higher level now, and so the results that we're getting are not quite as basic as they were when we started."
More to the point, he said, he and Savage attack their work with greater clarity now, and have a better sense of what the best process is for attacking a myth. Oddly, instead of doing better science, or making things stronger or taking more risks, it all begins with the very concepts for each myth.
"The most important thing to get straight is the question you're trying to ask in the first place," Hyneman said. "It seems like a simple thing, but it's hard to get to that point and, a lot of times now, we're spending much more time defining that question before we do anything else."