You may have missed the news if you were binge watching fan-favorite political drama House of Cards on Netflix this weekend, but Sunday quietly marked the end of a thirteen-year venture to test commonly held beliefs—from whether a bull in a china shop is as destructive as the saying goes or whether Hollywood action movies follow the laws of physics during car chases and explosion scenes.
The final episode of MythBusters aired Sunday on the Discovery Channel, followed by an emotional reunion event where the original MythBusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, joined by cast members from multiple seasons, gathered to say farewell and pay homage to over a decade of problem solving. President Obama recorded his own farewell message, emphasizing the effect the show had on inspiring STEM problem-solving and expressing that, while the MythBusters never let him blow anything up when they visited the White House, he would miss them nonetheless. “After more than 1,000 myths tested, after more than 900 explosions, after eighty-three miles of duct tape, I just want to say thank you,” the president remarked. “Thank you for inspiring so many of our young people to ask the big questions about our world and to seek the answers through math, science, and engineering. It’s going to make a real difference to America’s future, I promise you.”
MythBusters proved to be a very successful example of a rare form of television classified as science entertainment. Employing the scientific method, logic, and MacGyver-like problem-solving skills to test the validity of news stories, rumors, movies, videos, and more, the show championed finding answers for oneself instead of relying on hearsay or information projected by authority figures. Without a doubt this is a much-needed skill at a time when we need to be increasingly more responsible for determining truth in the midst of political maneuvering and information overload.
In the latest issue of Popular Mechanics, co-host Jamie Hyneman (a prominent member, with Savage, of the skeptic community) was asked about the “impact the show has had on people’s assumptions about the world” and answered:
What was profound is that it said to people at large that science isn’t just for guys in lab coats. It’s not some mystical thing that you have to be educated to be able to do. When we showed up on MythBusters, we were persistent and methodical about the experiments and, hey, who knew, that’s science. Now everybody’s going, “You guys are encouraging people to do science.” It’s more like I’m a bear and I’m shitting in the woods. Like, that’s what I do.
Let’s hope someone else will take up the baton to inspire the next generation of healthy skeptics and doers.