Fans of Mythbusters, rejoice! The Mythbusters: Explosive Exhibition just opened this weekend at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, and it’s a blast. The show runs until May 5, and then will head to the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio, in June.
So what is it? Well, sadly, it’s not Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman (and the other co-hosts) in person at the museum, blowing stuff up. But there are still a whole lot of very cool displays and hands-on activities. Now, I have a confession to make: I haven’t actually watched Mythbusters. I’ve seen clips and read a lot, but I just don’t watch TV so it’s been on my to-do list for a while. But even with just the minimal knowledge of Mythbusters I’ve picked up through osmosis from my fellow GeekDads, I can appreciate the utter awesomeness of the exhibit.
First off, there are just a ton of actual props used in the show all over the exhibit: the duct tape canoe, the fart-lighting chair, various things that have been blown up, the mechanical shark… Some have short descriptions of how they were used in the show, but others (like those in the photo above) are just labeled and will be most impressive to those who have seen the relevant episodes. And while none of the co-hosts made it to the show, some of their clothes did: five mannikins are outfitted with actual clothes worn by all five.
One of my kids’ favorite hands-on exhibit was the setup to test whether you get wetter if you run or walk in the rain. You walk or run through the tunnel, which is dripping a phosphorescent water that glows in the black lights, letting you check who got wetter. Of course, the scientific method is only as good as your powers of observation — each of my kids insisted that they got wetter. And then they went through the tunnel again, which doesn’t exactly help prove anything. Other than that the liquid really does glow.
How’s your reaction time? Try to dodge a bullet — stand in front of this reflector, and when the light flashes, move out of the way as fast as you can, and the timer shows how quick you were. Or, if you want something closer to the real deal, the 10-minute live demonstration asks for a few volunteers, one of whom will get to try dodging an actual paintball gun.
I’ve always wanted to try the tablecloth trick — you know, where you put a bunch of stuff on a table and then yank out the cloth, leaving everything where it is. Well, I got my chance here. They’ve got plastic place settings (and even a little vase) that you can set up, with round tables bolted to the ground so you don’t pull them over. It took a couple tries, but we did manage to yank out the tablecloth without knocking anything on the ground; the flower vase kept tipping over, but we called it a success anyway.
And these are just a few of the things we saw. You can also try your hand at throwing poker cards (I got up to 24 mph, but didn’t manage to stick one into the foam target), testing the buttered toast hypothesis, sit on a swing held up by phone books, and build a house to see if it’ll stand up to a blast of wind. They even have the big round conveyor belt so you can test the plane taking off — but expect to stand in line for that one for a while.
All in all, it’s a really cool exhibit for anyone who likes a bit of hands-on experimentation, but for fans of the TV show, it’s a must-see.
Thanks to OMSI for inviting my family to the preview night.