02 May 2010

busting mythbusters

i get a little frustrated with Mythbusters sometimes (often?).

i recently watched a show where they were testing the idea that Hungarian horsemen, firing arrows into people, could generate twice as much power as they would if stationary.

part of what frustrates me is the sloppiness with terms. "Power" is a specific term that can be measured, but at no point did they go about defining what they meant or how they were going to measure it. rather, it quickly became about measuring the penetration of arrows shot into a foam target.

in the end, using a crossbow mounted to a moving jeep, they "busted" the "myth" because the crossbows shot from the jeep penetrated @ some 9", versus some 7" when stationary.

obviously, that's not twice as much "power".

they did not discuss the relationship between said depth of penetration and power, nor did they do any experiments on the substance under target to determine if that relationship is linear. all that was simply assumed, which I suppose is kind of irrelevant as the original claim suddenly transformed from "measurement" of "power" to what kind of killing effect the arrows had on their opponents.

i'm assuming they have all kinds of advisers behind the scenes, telling them how sloppy they're being, and then being overruled by producers concerned with "making good TV" and "not losing the audience."

this could be a good, informative show. I have to think this isn't at cross-purposes with being popular.


pyker said...

I'd assume they don't have much in the way of rigorous advising. The show drives me nuts. The kids love it, though. I find it tedious. Their busting of myths is often, as you note, fallacious. As in "my flawed model of what might have happened failed to work, therefore the myth is busted."

JustJoeP said...

Sadly, I concur with you both. About 1/3 of their programs have a valid premise, good scientific method, and are well executed. the rest, are just one brother aggravating the other, or practicing dumb science, or "look how cheeky we can be!" ...to appeal to the Americans at Idle, small children, and the kind of people who don't understand what triggers an automobile's presence at an intersection. UGH!