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Top 5 science myths to investigate (Mythbusters)

Below are my favourite mythbuster projects, taken from their website (http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/mythbusters/db/myth-files.html) to investigate in school. Where possible, I’ve included the video from the episode too. Enjoy!

1. MYTH: CAN COMBINING DIET COKE AND MENTOS MAKE YOUR STOMACH EXPLODE?

Explanation: Ever have one of those days when you have to eat lunch out of a vending machine? Anyone whose heard the Internet-fueled rumour about the guy who ruptured his stomach by downing Diet Coke and Mentos will probably avoid that sugary combination on such occasions. Yet, as with like many cyber sensations, there’s a lot of hot air behind the Diet Coke and Mentos rumour.

It’s true that if you drop a pack of the chewy mints into a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke, the candy’s properties react with the carbon dioxide in the soda to spew forth fizz. Physicist Tonya Coffey determined that this happens because Mentos’ rough surface breaks up the attraction between water molecules in the Coke, clearing room for carbon dioxide bubbles to form. The gum arabic further fuels the fizz by making the candy fall through the liquid faster, which causes bubbles to form more rapidly.

However, when you open and drink a Diet Coke, it releases much of the pressurised carbon dioxide that forms the carbonation. As the soda warms while traveling to the stomach, the gas continues to vaporise. Any remaining might cause your stomach to expand, but it isn’t enough to spark a dangerous gassy rebellion if you chase the soda with a pack of Mentos.

The nutritional value of a Diet Coke and Mentos snack is still questionable, but if that’s your only vending machine vice, your stomach should make it through just fine.

2. MYTH: CAN EATING BEANS CAUSE EXCESSIVE FLATULENCE?

Explanation:In the spirit of highbrow science, the MythBusters took on the premise of the well-known children’s song “Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit.” The popular rhyme claims that the more beans you eat, the more flatulence you produce, so Kari Byron, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage tallied their toots on an average day and compared it with a day of each gobbling down gas-causing chow to see whether beans win out as the ultimate fart food.

Since carbonation and red meat are also linked to gas buildup, Kari subsisted on soda, Jamie devoured nothing but meat, and Adam ate a hill of beans for a day. When comparing gas diaries, Adam came out the winner far and away. Kari’s fizzy beverages doubled her average gas production, while Jamie’s steaks chopped his gas in half. But those notorious beans upped Adam’s flatulence by 100 percent; he recorded four times more flatulence than Kari with a whopping 20 toots.

This myth confirmation makes scientific sense, because beans are packed with a type of sugar called oligosaccharides. As bacteria in the large intestine work hard to break down these macromolecules, they release gas in the process. Unfortunately, that gas needs to go somewhere, and its escape route is often in the form of flatulence.

Much to the chagrin of any non-bean-eating dinner-mates.

As seen in “MythBusters: Franklin’s Kite.”

3. MYTH: CAN YOU REALLY SLIP ON AN A BANANA PEEL?

Explanation: The banana peel fall: It”s a myth that got its start in the early 1900s when bananas became the most popular fruit in the United States. People would toss their scrap skins on the sidewalks, where they rotted and became slippery. Enough people slipped on the aging peels and were injured that many places enacted anti-littering laws. The myth has been perpetuated in slapstick comedy over the years.

Contrary to comedic genius, MythBusters found that — although the slick underside of a fresh banana skin does have some friction-reducing properties — a single peel isn’t a guaranteed fall magnet. If you’re determined to see some major slippage, try running on layers of peels. Putting peel upon peel reduces static friction, the force that keeps an object from moving when it goes from “stop” to “start.” And the older the peels, the more slippery they will be, because the solid material decomposes into a soft, slimy texture.

Don’t have a boatload of aging banana peels? No worries. With a fair amount of comedic effort, you can recreate the ol’ banana peel pratfall by purposefully stepping on an old banana skin. It just isn’t likely to happen by accident.

As seen in “MythBusters: Banana Slip, Double Dip.”

4. MYTH: CAN ENOUGH FAIRGROUND BALLOONS MAKE A CHILD FLY?

Explanation: Hand a tiny tot a helium-filled fairground balloon, and what are the chances the buoyant bubble will lift the lucky kid off the ground? Slim to none. But MythBusters Tory Belleci, Kari Byron and Scottie Chapman decided to see whether a bunch of balloons — a really big bunch of balloons — could indeed airlift a child.

They chose Maddie, the 44-pound daughter of a MythBusters crew member, as their target cargo, and then started calculating how many balloons they’d have to blow up. The MythBusters ran the numbers and determined that a whopping 2,070 balloons, tied together into 250 child-lifting columns, could give Maddie wings. Yet taking into account gravity’s downward pull inflated the necessary number of balloons to around 3,500. After finally filling up the last one, the bulging bunch of balloons boosted Maddie into the air.

As seen in “MythBusters: Ping-Pong Rescue”

5. MYTH: IS FOOD THAT’S BEEN ON THE FLOOR LESS THAN FIVE SECONDS REALLY SAFE TO EAT?

Explanation:Whoever came up with “five-second rule” had probably just dropped an entire cookie on the ground and needed a sanitary excuse to save it. But according to research from Clemson University food scientist Paul Dawson, that cookie could’ve picked up toxic salmonella bacteria during that brief time window, especially on a tiled or wooden surface.

When MythBusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage bit into the same popular presumption, they realized that different foods produce a smorgasbord of results. Comparing the bacteria colonies picked up by dry saltines and wet pastrami after the sodium-rich snackshung out on a contaminated floor for a few seconds, Jamie and Adam noticed the moist sausage scooped up far more flora.

When the MythBusters then analyzed food-free contact plates that had spent two- and six-second intervals on a contaminated surface, the “five-second rule” quickly crumbled. Even if something spends a mere millisecond on the floor, it attracts bacteria. How dirty it gets depends on the food’s moisture, surface geometry and floor condition — not time.

That spells sad news for clumsy eaters everywhere: The “five-second rule” myth is busted.

As seen in “MythBusters: Chinese Invasion Alarm”

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