Mythbusters: Of RPGs and MPGs

How do they come up with this stuff?

I’ve been watching Mythbusters since the beginning, and at this point I’m generally surprised and impressed that they can still find “myths” to test. “Bikes and Bazookas” half qualified, with Adam and Jamie comparing the idea that motorcycles are better for the environment than cars, and the junior Mythbusters testing a scene from a movie.

The relevance of testing scenes from movies is always questionable, but I’m pretty sure this week’s choice was just an excuse to play with rocket-propelled grenades. I like explosions as much as the next person—maybe more—but I like them better when there’s also something to be learned. Like how to blow up your house with a water heater. Or how not to.

Is Mythbusters pure entertainment, or is it a scientific show, providing much-needed information? Sometimes I think even its makers don’t know the answer. Adam and Jamie always get really jazzed up about science (especially Jamie), but sometimes that science takes the backseat to flashy gimmicks.

Even in the motorcycle v. car test science fell a little by the wayside. Adam and Jamie tested three cars and three motorcycles on an identical route to see which used the most fuel and emitted the most of several pollutants. Predictably, the motorcycles got better fuel economy, and they also produced less carbon dioxide, but they produced many times the cars’ output of other harmful gases. My conclusion: “fuel efficiency” and “less pollution” don’t always go hand in hand. Their conclusion: let’s wrap a motorcycle in a bubble.

This is where “Bikes and Bazookas” seems to go off the science road to run a few donuts in the entertainment field. As intelligent as Adam and Jamie are, they surely came to the same conclusion that I did—that the engines of motorcycles simply don’t run as cleanly as those of cars. Yet they chose to go down a silly, doomed path. In the end, thankfully, their bubble-bike proved that running cleanly is different from running on less by (duh) still polluting in the same ratios.

I’ll say this for entertainment as a choice: it’s fun to watch. Jamie’s flattened affect is as always the perfect foil for Adam, who clearly really enjoys being on TV. His operatic narration of their road test makes the episode worth watching. And yeah, there are cool explosions.

This article was originally published at TV Foundry.

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