MythBusters (2003 season)

MythBusters (2003 season)
MythBusters (2003 season)
Country of origin Australia
United States
No. of episodes 8
Original channel Discovery Channel
Original run September 23, 2003 (2003-09-23) – December 12, 2003 (2003-12-12)
Season chronology
← Previous
Pilot episodes
Next →
2004 season
List of MythBusters episodes

The cast of the television series MythBusters perform experiments to verify or debunk urban legends, old wives' tales, and the like. This is a list of the various myths tested on the show as well as the results of the experiments (the myth is Busted, Plausible, or Confirmed).

Note: The show's first season used "True" instead of "Confirmed"; for the sake of consistency, "Confirmed" will be used on this page.


Episode overview

No. in series No. in season Title Original air date Overall episode No.
1 1 "Exploding Toilet"[1] September 23, 2003 (2003-09-23) 4
Myths tested:
Can a person be propelled off a toilet seat by dropping a lit cigarette into a toilet bowl when filled with various combustible materials?
Is running better than walking to keep dry in the rain?
Is it possible to make a "magic bullet" out of ice? 
2 2 "Cell Phone Destroys Gas Station"[1] October 3, 2003 (2003-10-03) 5
Myths tested:
Will using a cell phone near a gas pump cause an explosion?
Will silicone breast implants explode or expand in low pressure?
Can a standard CD-ROM drive shatter a CD? 
3 3 "Barrel of Bricks"[1] October 10, 2003 (2003-10-10) 6
Myths tested:
The story of a man being hit multiple times by a barrel of bricks with a pulley system.
Can a person be electrocuted by urinating on the third rail?
Can an eel skin wallet erase a credit card? 
4 4 "Penny Drop"[1] October 17, 2003 (2003-10-17) 7
Myths tested:
Will a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building kill a person or penetrate the ground?
Can a person's internal organs be cooked by a tanning booth?
Can tooth fillings receive radio waves? 
5 5 "Buried Alive"[1] October 24, 2003 (2003-10-24) 8
Myths tested:
How long can you survive in an underground coffin?
Does Cola have special properties?
Will throwing a hammer off a bridge to break the surface tension of the water save a person who jumped off the bridge? 
6 6 "Lightning Strikes/ Tongue Piercings"[1] November 11, 2003 (2003-11-11) 9
Myths tested:
Is a person with a tongue piercing more likely to get struck by lightning?
Can a cannon be built out of a tree?
Can the breathalyzer be beaten through various methods? 
7 7 "Stinky Car"[1] December 5, 2003 (2003-12-05) 10
Myths tested:
Is it possible to de-stink a car after being sealed up with a dead pig?
If gasoline is poured down a drain pipe and lit while a person is inside of it, will that person be launched as if from a cannon? 
8 8 "Alcatraz Escape"[1] December 12, 2003 (2003-12-12) 11
Myths tested:
Was it possible to survive an escape from Alcatraz?
Does a duck's quack echo?
Does the government implant secret chips in people and can stud finders be used to find them? 

Episode 1 – "Magic Bullet, Exploding Toilet, Who Gets Wetter?"

  • Original airdate: September 23, 2003

Magic Bullet

This myth tested the feasibility of magic bullets that can be used to assassinate without leaving evidence, used as a plot device or otherwise mentioned in many movies, such as Most Wanted or Three Days of the Condor. A request for information to the Central Intelligence Agency was declined. Due to the myth's inclusion in many Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, they chose to use a Carcano rifle similar to the assassination weapon for testing.

Myth statement Status Notes
An ice bullet can kill someone without leaving a trace. Busted The ice bullet evaporated before it could leave the barrel. This myth was retested in Myths Revisited, and remained busted with slow-frozen ice.
A meat bullet can kill someone without leaving a trace. Busted The hamburger bullet fragmented on contact with the skin, causing only superficial damage.
A gelatin bullet can kill someone without leaving a trace. Busted The bullet did not cause fatal injury from the 6.5x52mm Mannlicher-Carcano round, but had better result from a revolver at point-blank range. Desiring a more subtle assassination tool, the pair examined the Bulgarian umbrella.
An assassin can use a poison capsule fired from an umbrella to kill someone without leaving a trace. Confirmed It was found to have been the cause of death of a notable Bulgarian journalist in exile, Georgi Markov. The MythBusters build a pair of replicas with a gas cylinder and an air gun, and fired both to lethal effect without leaving gunpowder burns.

Exploding Toilet

This experiment formally introduced Buster the crash test dummy.

Myth statement Status Notes
Pouring gasoline down a toilet and lighting it will cause the toilet to explode. Busted The gasoline simply burned without exploding. Even half a tin of gunpowder in the toilet bowl wasn't able to eject Buster from the seat, though his clothes did smolder.

Who Gets Wetter?

Myth statement Status Notes
A person will end up drier by running in the rain rather than walking. Busted The pair decides to wear coveralls through 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) per hour of artificial rain and compare walking and running weights to determine which absorbed more water (with bodysuits underneath to remove sweat absorption as a variable). The original test showed that running faster results in getting wetter, with wind only adding minimal amounts of water. The independent tests of Thomas Peterson and Trevor Wallace of the National Climatic Data Center disagreed, finding the runner 40% less wet. The result of this myth was overturned in MythBusters Revisited.

Episode 2 – "Cell Phone Destruction, Silicone Breasts, CD-ROM Shattering"

  • Original airdate: October 3, 2003

Cell Phone Destruction

Myth statement Status Notes
Using one's cell phone while pumping gasoline can cause an explosion. Busted After singeing Adam's eyebrow in a scale test, the team attempts to ignite a mock gas can. A properly-working cell phone failed to ignite gasoline, even when surrounded by gasoline vapor with the optimum fuel-air mix for ignition. The actual risk comes from an electrostatic discharge between a charged driver and the car, often a result of static electricity buildup from getting into and out of the vehicle. Re-tested in Myths Revisited, the conclusion was validated.

Silicone Breasts

Myth statement Status Notes
Silicone breast implants may explode at high altitudes or low air pressure. Busted Using a hypobaric chamber, the implants expanded negligibly at 35,000 feet (11,000 m), an altitude too high for a human to live. Using a hyperbaric chamber yielded no impact. A study by Duke University concluded that atmospheric conditions would be lethal long before they could affect implants. A spinoff of this myth was tested in Myths Revisited, while the DVD version includes second version of the spinoff.

CD-ROM Shattering

Myth statement Status Notes
Compact Discs can shatter if placed in a high-speed (i.e. 40X or faster) optical disc drive. Plausible It was proven that a high rotation (in excess of 23,000 RPM) could shatter the CDs, but the MythBusters could not achieve this using an unaltered drive. Physically damaged and unbalanced CDs made shattering more likely. The MythBusters concluded that while this event was possible, it was very unlikely to happen.

Episode 3 – "Barrel of Bricks, Peeing on the Third Rail, Eel Skin Wallet"

  • Original airdate: October 10, 2003

Barrel of Bricks

Myth statement Status Notes
A bricklayer hoisting a wooden barrel full of bricks with a pulley from the top of a three-story building could be injured repeatedly. Plausible The MythBusters were able to injure Buster by hitting him with the descending barrel as it pulled him up, but the barrel would not break and spill its load until deliberately weakened by removing hoops and dropping it on a sharp edge. This allowed Buster's weight to overcome the broken barrel and fall, while a quick-release mechanism in Buster's hand holding the rope allowed the barrel to be dropped a second time for the third impact. But there was no evidence of the myth happening; the source of the myth appears to be a joke book. This test marks the first time Buster was broken in the course of an experiment.

Peeing on the Third Rail

Myth statement Status Notes
Urinating on the electric third rail of a train track can cause electrocution. Busted Since ballistic gelatin has the same electrical resistance as a human body, the MythBusters rigged a dummy with a urination valve and electric release that would trigger with exposure to current. Even wetting the feet and removing shoes failed to trigger the release, due to the urine stream failing to stay laminar and solid enough to complete a circuit. A larger valve failed to create a solid stream, but setting the dummy unrealistically close to the rail finally succeeded. A spinoff of this myth was tested in Myths Revisited. In this episode, the "genitalia" region of the dummy is censored, and no reference is made verbally, instead referring only to the urination process.

Eelskin Wallet

Myth statement Status Notes
Using an electric eel-skin wallet will cause a static charge that will cause failure in a magnetic stripe card. Busted Most eel-skin wallets are not made from electric eels, but rather from a fish called a hagfish which does not produce an electric charge. Data written to a set of test cards were not affected in any way from this leather exposure, nor by direct exposure to an eel in a tank. In addition, further tests were conducted to see how much magnetism would it take to 'wipe' a card, and was found to be about 1,000 gauss, far above what the average person may encounter.

Episode 4 – "Penny Drop, Microwave Madness, Radio Tooth Fillings"

  • Original airdate: October 17, 2003

Penny Drop

Myth statement Status Notes
A penny dropped from a skyscraper lands with enough force to either kill a pedestrian on the sidewalk below or embed itself into the sidewalk. Busted Firing a penny at terminal velocity (65 miles per hour (105 km/h)) into concrete and asphalt disks and a ballistics gel head with a human skull failed to result in any penetrations, likely because the speed is too low and a penny's mass too small. Even when fired from a rifle, the penny was unable to penetrate concrete or a ballistic gel dummy's skull. Even modifying a rifle to shoot a penny at supersonic speeds failed to cause a penetration. In comparison, a real 6.5mm bullet split the dummy skull. Visiting the Empire State Building, the likely source of the myth, they realize that updrafts and roofs of lower floors would prevent a thrown penny from reaching street level.

Radio Tooth Fillings

Myth statement Status Notes
It is possible to pick up radio signals through a dental filling. Busted The gold and amalgam tooth fillings did not act as an antenna or point-contact transistor when placed in a real human skull. Explanations for the supposed Morse code pickup included a Galvanic cell reaction between two teeth fillings and saliva.

This myth was first claimed by Lucille Ball in an interview on The Dick Cavett Show, with the fillings explanation offered by Buster Keaton.

Microwave Madness

Despite mid-episode teasers, the MythBusters refused to microwave a live poodle, and were thus unable to test the myth that a microwave can dry a wet dog.

Myth statement Status Notes
It is possible to cook one's insides by using a tanning bed too often; in a manner similar to how a microwave works. Busted Tanning booths work on ultraviolet radiation, which penetrates the body from the outside in, meaning that all one would get is a sunburn. They also demonstrated that microwave ovens also do not cook food from the inside out.
It is possible to blow up a microwave oven by microwaving metal. Busted (with caveats) Neither a spoon nor a fork had any effect. Tinfoil scrunched into balls caused a light-show with electric charges, but the microwave did not explode. Microwaving metal can possibly ruin a microwave by arcing against the inner wall, sending electricity back to the magnetron, and either destroying it or shortening its lifespan.
If a glass of water is microwaved, removed, and an additive placed in it, it will explode due to superheating. Confirmed If the water had no impurities in it at the time of superheating (for instance, distilled water), then any sort of additive placed within will make the water flash to steam and violently spray.
It is possible to build a super-microwave by aligning four magnetrons around a metal box. Busted (unofficially) If there is a proper method to build one, the method used in the show is not it. After a glass of water was exposed to the "super microwave"'s magnetrons for thirty seconds, a thermometer found that the temperature of the water had actually dropped by two degrees Fahrenheit.

Episode 5 – "Hammer Bridge Drop, Buried Alive, Cola"

  • Original airdate: October 24, 2003

Hammer Bridge Drop

Myth statement Status Notes
A high fall over water can be survived by throwing a hammer ahead of oneself to break the surface tension. Busted Dropping Buster with an internal accelerometer from a crane led to difficulty because the dummy continually lost parts on each control impact. Eventually, they managed consistent drops (mostly just below 300 g), finding that the hammer reduced the impact slightly, but the 150-foot (46 m) fall would still be lethal.

101 Uses For Cola

Cola is able to...

Myth statement Status Notes
...remove bloodstains. Confirmed The cola was able to emulsify bloodstains.
...clean rust. Busted The cola was unable to break down rust deposits.
...act as a toilet cleaner. Busted Shown only in MythBusters Outtakes, Adam rubbed engine grease over surfaces in the M5 bathroom and failed to clean it effectively with cola.
...clean chrome. Confirmed It surprisingly cleaned the chrome better than the commercial chrome polish used for comparison.
...dissolve a tooth overnight. Busted The tooth did start to dissolve, indicating that with enough time it could be completely dissolved. However, the phosphoric acid (an ingredient in cola) used for comparison was much more effective in dissolving the tooth. The tooth was stained brown.
...dissolve a steak. Busted The cola simply tenderized the meat, giving the steak a soft, pasty consistency and allowed some mold growth. The phosphoric acid made the steak fall into pieces.
...clean a penny. Confirmed The cola cleaned the penny well, removing corrosion and shining it. The only part of the coin that was not cleaned was an area where an air bubble had formed.
...clean battery terminals. Plausible The cola worked, but it was hard to tell if plain water did not perform just as well. The cola did not do anything spectacular. As Adam noted, it probably only worked because it is a liquid.
...remove greasy stains in laundry. Busted Soaking for four days had no effect at all to the grease, but turned the material brown.
...degrease engines. Busted The cola did not remove any of the grease and was not more effective than plain water.
...kill sperm. Busted The MythBusters added cola to some slides and saline solution to others, then counted the number of live sperm they could see through a microscope camera in one minute. The number of live sperm in both saline and cola was relatively the same; and with the help of Dr. Turek, they determined that cola does not do much more than dilute the sperm.

(The MythBusters also tested whether cola would damage car paint if not cleaned in 24 hours.The phosphoric acid was used as a comparison, and it did not have any effect, but the phosporic acid ate through the paint and turned the patch whiter.)

Buried Alive

Myth statement Status Notes
It is possible to stay alive over one day when one is buried alive in a coffin. Busted Jamie risked his own life for this myth, staying in the unburied coffin for 50 minutes; he maintained just 30 minutes when the dirt was loaded above the casket. Suffocation from the lack of outside air or lethal poisoning from increasing levels of carbon dioxide would have claimed the life of anyone buried alive. There is also the possibility of the coffin (and occupant) being crushed by the weight of the dirt pressing down on it. The risk of sudden collapse was the main reason the test was aborted after only 30 minutes. After the coffin was uncovered, it was found to have buckled significantly.

Episode 6 – "Lightning Strikes Tongue Piercing, Tree Cannon, Beat the Breath Test"

  • Original airdate: November 11, 2003

Lightning Strikes Tongue Piercing

Myth statement Status Notes
Metal body piercings attract lightning. Busted The lightning did seem to strike the dummy with a piercing more, but not the piercings directly. It would take a piercing the size of a doorknob to attract lightning. Given that the realistic piercings did not get struck, the myth was technically busted. Adam was also shown having his tongue pierced, but he did not keep the piercing after the test was concluded.

Tree Cannon

Myth statement Status Notes
Under siege from a neighboring clan, a Medieval Hungarian town (Paks) built a cannon out of a tree overnight, but wiped out a great deal of itself when the cannon exploded during a test-fire. Plausible It is impossible to bore a barrel out of a log in a single night using the technology available at that time, and Adam eventually used a chainsaw and electric drill. The cannon made of a log, loaded with 6 ounces (170 g) of period-realistic gunpowder, successfully fired a 1-pound (450 g) hand-chiseled granite cannonball a significant distance (exact measurement unknown since the cannonball was not found). It also successfully fired a tennis ball, though a soda can merely leaked and contaminated the gunpowder. Loaded with 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of gunpowder, and with its barrel plugged, the tree cannon exploded violently enough to feasibly destroy part of a small medieval town.

Beat the Breath Test

Myth statement Status Notes
Using various substances and tricks when drunk can beat the breathalyzer test, to include eating breath mints or an onion, drinking mouthwash, placing a penny, battery, or ice in the mouth, and wearing dentures. Busted None of the tested methods worked, and the MythBusters blood alcohol content was consistently over .08, verified with a field sobriety test. In addition, mouthwash actually made the breathalyzer give a higher reading than usual because of the inherent alcohol content.

Episode 7 – "Stinky Car, Raccoon Rocket"

  • Original airdate: December 5, 2003

Stinky Car

Fresh pig corpses were placed in a 1987 Chevrolet Corvette, which was sealed with tape and placed in a container for two months.

If a decomposing body is left in a car long enough...

Myth statement Status Notes
...the car's interior will be destroyed. Confirmed When unsealed, the car was full of condensation and maggots, and the upholstery was dirty and disintegrating.
...the car cannot be cleaned up enough to remove the smell completely. Confirmed With the aid of a professional cleaning company, the car was cleaned, but some parts (such as the seats) proved to be beyond the cleaners' abilities, as well as the impracticality of disassembling every part. Adam and Jamie also reasoned that traces of material in the air conditioning system would cause the smell to linger.
...the car cannot be cleaned up enough to be sold. Busted After the smell and failure to start turned away several potential buyers, the MythBusters did find a buyer who was willing to purchase the car for US$2,000 and use it for spare parts.

Raccoon Rocket

Myth statement Status Notes
A hillbilly was blasted 200 feet (61 m) out of a culvert when he tried to light gasoline in an attempt to chase down a raccoon which had escaped down the pipe. Busted Buster was simply lit on fire when the gasoline was ignited. The only way the result of the myth was duplicated was by encasing Buster in a foam sabot, plugging the bottom end of the 3-foot (0.91 m) diameter culvert, and using 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of gunpowder; resulting in Buster only travelling 100 feet (30 m), half the distance of their goal.

Episode 8 – "Escape From Alcatraz, Duck Quack, Stud Finder"

  • Original airdate: December 12, 2003

Escape From Alcatraz

Myth statement Status Notes
Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers (John and Clarence) successfully escaped from Alcatraz prison using an inflatable raft made from rubber raincoats and reached the shore. Plausible The makeshift raft crafted and crewed by the MythBusters team did indeed reach the shore, but at the Marin Headlands instead of Angel Island. They declared it "Plausible" because no conclusive evidence has ever been found suggesting the prisoners survived the actual incident, and personal effects washed up later on shore, indicating that the men probably failed to navigate correctly and drowned in San Francisco Bay. However, a portion of the scale tests (cut for time but later shown in MythBusters Outtakes) did show that these belongings could have been released by the prisoners and washed up where they were found through strategic use of the Bay's tides to throw the authorities off their trail. Therefore, the show’s hosts ruled that it was “plausible” that the prisoners may have survived their intricate escape attempt.

Jamie said that this was one myth they just had to test, since it is probably the most famous myth of San Francisco, where the show is based.

Does a Duck's Quack Echo?

This myth originated in lists of "Random Facts" distributed over the Internet.

Myth statement Status Notes
A duck's quack does not echo. Busted Initially unable to get either duck to quack, they began chattering when paired. Initially, no echo could be found, so the team moved to an anechoic chamber for comparison. When examined by an audio expert, it was found that the echo was "swallowed" by the original quack, due to the very similar acoustic structure between the quack and the echo. Because of this, it may be difficult to tell where the quack ends and the echo begins, both having similar waveforms on an oscilloscope and blending together in a way that makes them difficult to distinguish. In the same way, human hearing may not perceive the difference between a duck's quack and its echo.

Stud Finders & Mind Control Chips

Myth statement Status Notes
When going to donate blood at the Red Cross, people are actually secretly having mind controlling microchips implanted into their bloodstream that can be detected with a stud finder. Busted While a stud finder can find microchips (like those used to track pets) embedded in flesh, none were found after the pair donated blood at the Red Cross.

See also


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