Hey, Jamie. Just thought I'd start out by saying my family has been watching Mythbusters since the beginning. It's fostered a lot of scientific thinking, which I'm assuming is, at least in part, one of the objectives of the show. Also, I live in Jacksonville, so hopefully I'll be at the show next weekend!
Do you ever wish you had more time to explain or explore the actual science behind the myths you test? I can't think of anything off the top of my head right now, but sometimes I can't help but notice that some explanations/shows are aimed at an audience that doesn't have a strong scientific background, which is understandable when you consider the show is probably viewed by most people for entertainment, and not necessarily as a source of scientific truth. While a peer reviewed verdict obviously isn't required for most myths, the aspects of chemistry and physics that drive these myths could be interesting.
I do wish we had more time to explain and explore the science in these stories we take on. Television and ratings seem to require that we keep things to a relatively shallow level, which I find frustrating. There is a lot of depth in some of the things we explore which I wish we could put out there. We hope to someday use the web to allow an interface that could let the viewers go as deep as they desire instead of being so limited.
If the show was offered unlimited funds and there were no rules or restrictions, what would you do for that episode?
A long time ago I wanted to do a story that involved some really big magnets that I had gotten hold of and told the producer about it. He said "Jamie, how many times do I have to tell you that the show is called Mythbusters, not 'Jamie and Adam build weird shit' ". I guess I would like to just build weird shit.
YEAH BITCH! MAGNETS!
OK, since this seems to be the most popular topic on my AMA, lets talk about building weird shit. YEAH BITCH, MAGNETS!.......can you see an episode with that as the title?! So, redditors, what weird shit would you like yours truly and team to build?
What is one myth you want to bust, but you legally cannot do?
I can't say there is one. We always figure out a way to deal with that- although perhaps we have to cut corners. I mean, there are a lot of stories we do that are about someone getting maimed or killed and we obviously can't/don't want to maim or kill someone. That's where Buster or someone of his particular talents comes in.
Can you describe the conversation where (I presume) Adam convinced you to an AMA here?
Adam did not have to convince me to do AMA. Although I expected a lot of questions that are kind of fluffy like 'how many berets do you have' I also figured that I would get a lot of intelligent stuff from a group like this, and it is my responsibility, by way of doing a good job of being in the public eye, to keep tabs on the opinions of the public about who I am and what I mean to them.
How long does it take for a myth to reach the tv and what is your favorite myth that was tested but never shown?
We take about 10 working days to shoot a show once we turn a camera on.Then, on average it takes about 3 months for it to hit the TV. They could, if they wanted to, turn it around in a couple of weeks, but the companies that do this usually are editing and processing several shows at the same time, and Discovery also strategically saves up shows so that they get released in blocks. So it varies a great deal. There is one show that was shot and never shown that was quite funny, but it turned out to be a bit too gruesome, so it will never air. Oddly, the myth was that some kid's cereals are less nutritious than the box they come in. It didn't turn out like we intended (no kids were involved though)
In the show, you're represented as a more down to earth guy compared to adam. Are you, or is that just a role you play?
What you see is what you get. But then.....while I am less impulsive than Adam in some ways, Adam is actually pretty conventional and sensible, and I have a great deal of respect for his opinions and character. One thing that people can't tell from the show is that he is quite kind- it's hard to catch him saying bad things about someone. I'd say that is pretty down to earth. In my case, while I am very practical, (and would hope that I am not very mean spirited as well) when it comes to over the top ideas or things like that, I am pretty out there. I did, after all, decide to make a living doing FX work- which is what Mythbusters grew out of and is not exactly a grounded thing to expect to make a living at.
Adam said on one of the tested.com podcasts, that one thing you two have in common is your love of books. Are there any particular books you'd recommend to fans? I'd be particularly interested in your non-fiction recommendations.
Thanks for this question. I used to read a lot of fiction- science fiction in particular. Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon, Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. Lots of stuff by Stanislaw Lem. Now I pretty much don't read fiction. Too much non fiction to keep up with. If I am not working, building something or doing daily stuff at home with my wife, I am reading. New Scientist is one of my must reads- it is a great overview of what is happening out there in the sciences. Scientific American, Science, Design News, The Lancet..... these periodicals are a river of current information- and I can't get enough. My interest in science and accessing these sources of information happened as a direct result of working on the show.
An honor to have you here!
What would you consider to be your "thing"? Like Adam is addicted to recreating the movie props and things like that. What would you consider yours is?
I invent things. I am down in the shop after hours and on vacations as much time as I can spare, experimenting with stuff. One thing I have spent the past few years on is what I call 'human amplification'. I have been playing with exoskeltons, as well as a lot of variations on this. I can't tell you what I am doing exactly as I would like it to become a viable series of products to manufacture, but I can say that most of the attempts I have seen from other people doing this have been impractical- million dollar's plus- and as per what I like to do on the show, while I love embracing new technologies I also love to keep things simple and elegant. One other thing I invented which I hope may be successful some day is a new structural material I call 'truss sheet' which I developed originally as a type of armor specifically to deal with blast pressures from IEDs, and found it to be super strong and light, so I think it could be used in less exotic applications.
There was an episode where you and Adam were isolated in small cabins for several days. Towards the end, Adam was going out of his mind, but you had begun to settle in and write a dissertation about how we should rebuild society correctly. You seemed quite agitated by being interrupted and disappointed at not being allowed to finish your work. How do you feel your work held up after being reunited with civilization and readjusting to your normal routine? Was it the work of an intelligent mind left alone with its thoughts, or a mind descending into madness?
For better or worse, I would be fine locked up in a cell for long periods of time. I was just settling into it a bit when they pulled the plug.I don't think I would have a problem descending into madness. In the episode you refer to I was writing down stuff that I have had kicking around for years. Something I won't bore people here with in detail, but the gist of it is based on the question: why the most important decisions of our day are made essentially by popular vote, by average people, average consensus? I don't want an average person making important decisions. I want somebody, and better yet, a bunch of somebodies well above average to do that. So the system I came up with is basically a variation on what is known as a meritocracy. A system of requiring that people who are in charge of making decisions have some credentials for being given the responsibility. If you want to drive a car, you need a driver's license. Why on earth would you have a governmental system where anybody, whether qualified or not, could be in charge? There are all sorts of institutions that require knowledge to be demonstrated in some basic way- if you are a professor of physics at a university, you may not be the best physics professor there is, but you probably at least have basic knowledge of physics. Not so our government.
What is stopping you from throwing up a bit of science on the web. Because i dont doubt you have it, but it still feels like a cop out when you some times hop to a conclusion that seems poorly founded.
We could, indeed put more science on the web, and we hope to. The only reason we can't is due to time and resources. There has to be a commercial motive to do it that equals or exceeds ad supported television, if financial resources are going to be made available. Mythbusters seems to be an exception to the rule- even in the limited amount of science and thoughtful programming we are able to get on air.
Sorry if this has already been asked but what was it that sparked your initial interest in all things science?
Doing the show sparked my interest in science- I suppose. Perhaps the most profound thing we have done on this show is the fact that we don't try to do science- it just happens that if you are methodical about trying to understand something, that is something you might call science. So that is what we do. And if you want to learn about the world and the way it works, the densest source of material that deals with that is some form of science. So I am interested in it- but not for it's own sake- but just because I like to understand things.
Big fan, but I won't go off on that. Had to ask a question while I have the opportunity, and this is the best thing I can think of at the moment (a bit star-struck, I guess).
What is the main driving point behind why you do what you do? Is it the questions, the answers, the puzzling over how to best test a hypothesis, .. I guess what I'm trying to ask is what is the most satisfying point of being a Mythbuster(Engineer? Mechanical Philosopher?) in your opinion?
The main driving point to do what I do is that it is a job. I don't mean to say it's a drag at all, but I like to keep that first and foremost because this environment puts us in the public eye, and it is easy to lose perspective, given all the attention we get. It's like we're special or something. We're not. That said, I relish the fact that this is a job that more or less pays us to have fun. If we are having fun, it seems to make for good TV because we put a lot of energy and thought into it.
If you had to, would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses, or 1 horse-sized duck?
I would fight the horse sized duck, because it wouldn't really be much of a challenge to fight duck sized horses would it? I mean you could just kick them, and it is not like they could climb up on you much. A horse sized duck could be quite dangerous, but I bet you could put a stick in its beak and it would be unable to bite. And I would like to hear what a horse sized duck quack would sound like.
What would you say is the technological advance that you see having the biggest impact overt the next twenty years? As far as space science is concerned, do you think it's better to spend money on unmanned science missions, or focus on human colonization/spaceflight?
I have a hunch that bio engineering/genetics research will start to surprise us in its impact on the world. It is a sleeper. In theory it can deal with a huge portion of the problems in a planet that is rapidly exhausting resources/impacting the natural world. Energy is another- there is much more focus on searching for new forms of it than we have ever seen before and it is conceivable that a breakthrough could be made that would be a huge game changer. I have mixed feelings about space science. On one hand it seems to me ridiculous that we spend time on it when we don't seem to be able to deal with the basics at home first. On the other hand I am a big proponent of exploring for its own sake. Mythbusters is a small example of the benefit; there is a lot of stuff that we do on the show that you don't need to know how to do, like making shiny balls out of poop- but then a lot of times when we do this useless stuff we see things we did not expect to see that is in fact useful. Many of the greatest discoveries made have not been that which is being sought- but something that was a tangent.
Where are you hoping and/or expecting the future of mythbusters, your company, and your life to go? You've made such a large impact in general, can you imagine your life without mythbusters? What would you have done if you didn't have it?
At this point it is all good. The show, my life, it all turned out better than I could have asked for. I kind of look at anything from here in as a bonus, we'll just see what happens.
Hi all, thanks for the discussion. Signing off now.