Mythbusters Analysis

Research projects can be fun, which is kind of crazy to believe. They can come in the form of reality television e.g. Heston’s Feasts. There is something quite exciting about science research projects especially when they involve crazy experiments.

Mythbusters is another experimental research show. Each episode of the show is based on experiments about old myths hence the name. They try to test the myth and see if it’s true or false. The format of the show follows a quite basic research process each and every episode. Initially they start with a hypothesis, conduct some research and/or experiments and finally come to a conclusion. The episode I looked at was called “Penny Drop”. In this episode the Mythbusters tried to bust the age-old question of “if a penny drops from the top of the Empire State will it kill someone?” This is a hypothesis and theory that will be researched and tested. Preceding this hypothesis, an experiment takes place trying to prove the theory. This is a part of their methodology. Once the results are synthesised and carefully the evaluated, the boys can come to a final conclusion and their conclusion turned out to be that the “penny drop” statement is false and will not cause harm.

Next, I will go through the tutorial questions from our study of Heston’s Feast and put them into the context of Mythbusters. Firstly, as previously stated it is a research project and the elements to define this is the shows use of a research project process including a hypothesis, experiment and conclusion. The shows hosts, Adam and Jamie, are both special effects experts. They have worked on major Hollywood movies such as Star Wars and The Matrix. Whilst the hosts are experts in the special effects field, they are not qualified scientists. This makes me question the validity of the experiments and the credibility of the data. But next is where this can be justified. Edward and Melissa Burkley, psychologist academics at Oklahoma State University, conducted a research project (2009) into Mythbusters as a tool for teaching research methods in psychology. They showed 4 episodes of Mythbusters to young students. They found that in viewing the show, the students learnt more and were more enthused about the class and research.

“They found the clips to be an effective teaching aid that helped them understand the course material better. Students also indicated that the Mythbusters clips helped them apply course concepts to actual research studies. Furthermore, students found the clips to be enjoyable and highly recommended their use in our future research methods courses” (Burkley 2009)

This shows that possibly the intention of the show is for educational purposes and not to be critiqued by scientists. The show provides educational fun although may not be scientifically accurate. I must admit I find it is a better show for younger children to watch rather than watching something like Home and Away. This approach gives the show more commercial reach in its viewers, as it is not too difficult to understand.

Mythbusters is a perfect example of a media research show and can be easily dissected to show its individual research processes.

Reference:

Berkley, E & M 2009, ‘Mythbusters: A Tool for Teaching Research Methods in Psychology’, Teaching of Psychology, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 179-184.

Mythbusters “Penny Drop” October 17th 2003, YouTube, Beyond Productions PTY LTD for the Discovery Channel, San Fransisco CA, executive producer Peter Rees

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