Wednesday, June 09, 2004

there's nothing like contradictory real-life experience to shake your faith in television.

Granted, most of my life is now vicariously lived through television (who lives in a pineapple under the sea...? Why, I think it might be me...), but every once in a while I have an honest-to-God real life experience.

So last night I was watching Mythbusters on Discovery (part of the line-up of shows which have come to overwhelm my prime-time viewing habits). Mythbusters essentially takes urban legends and puts them to the test to see if they could happen. Two special effects professionals try to recreate the scenario as closely as possible, and then try to see if the scenario could have ever really happened. THey are usually assisted by this kind of spacey folklore expert they dug up form the local university.

Anyway, they'll take a story like "Peeing on the 3rd rail will kill you," and then test the hypothesis.

Last night they tested whether or not a soda can may blow up if left in a hot car, and, bizarrely, they concluded this was a myth, and could not happen.


In 1994 my pal RIchard and I borrowed his grandmother's enormous Town Car for a trip down to Astroworld. In order to get into Astroworld more cheaply, we wanted to hand in empty Coke cans with coupons printed on the back. So, en route, I drank a ton of soda. But not ALL of the soda.

Four days later, we'd forgotten to take the soda out of the car, and in the heat of a Houston summer... BLAMMO!!! Richard's grandma's car was coated in Coke which dried to a fine sheen on her leather interior.

In 1998, I was PA for the last Don't Mess with Texas commercial. We shot on several different locations around Austin, and part of my job was carting Cokes around town for the crew to enjoy during breaks.

It was unusually hot that June (I remember wilting, standing in an alfalfa field while some actor couldn't finish the line "It's just a little cigarette butt..!" THe shot was NEVER USED.). The last day of the shoot, I got into my car and discovered a few cokes had exploded inside my car, coating the interior with sugar and carmel coloring. While my car smelled terrific, it took a while to clean it. And then I stuck a Coke covered tape into my tape-deck, effectively ruining the deck.

The flaw in the Mythbusters experiment was that they put a Coke into a toaster over, and believed the oven had to reach 300 degrees before the Coke would explode. I don't think they gave the soda in the can enough time to heat up, so it's not as if the soda in the can ALSO reached 300 degrees before it blew. There was simply no measure of the liquid's temperature inside of the can. I'm also no scientist, but I do know how a solar convection oven works. I mean, you can literally roast a turkey in an aluminum and glass box if you leave it in the sun long enough, so tell me again why can't you properly heat a Coke in yoru car?

Anyway, the rapid heat change of the oven was also not indicative of the actual conditions of the car, nor the curve of how long it would take to heat liquid versus air. Come on. I wasn't even in honors level science classes for chemistry or physics, and I know this.

Apparently the Mythbusters guys, based in San Francisco, do not think it gets hotter than 85 degrees on a summer day (equating to 100 degrees in a car). To that, my friends, I say "HA!" As any of us from the rest of the country know, if it's 110 degrees outside (as it already is here in Sunny Phoenix), it's more like 160 degrees in your car. Hot enough to make you expire in pretty short order, anyway. Hot enough that you should know better than to leave any compressed gasses, aerosols, etc... in your car if it's going to sit in the sun.

Anyway, my faith in the Mythbusters' experiments is now forever shaken. I shall forever be left wondering whether or not the conditions of any and all of their experiments are not properly controlled.

No comments: