Barack Obama: It’s Always Fun Blowing Things Up

Barack Obama, the president of the United States, had an agenda planned when going to the Mythbusters set [besides hoping to see something blow up, “which is always cool,” he said.]

“Nothing’s more important to our country’s future than getting young people engaged in math and science,” Obama explained to Mythbusters hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.

“A lot of the challenges we face as a country are going to depend on how engaged young people are with science, and so I’m just thrilled that you guys do such a great job making it fun.”

“Now, I do know this,” Obama continued. “Science requires a lot of trial and error. Part of what Mythbusters is about is testing out various hypotheses, and I think we’ve got a big one that hasn’t been thoroughly tested.”

The president then ordered Savage and Hyneman to reinvestigate the myth of Archimedes’ solar ray, inspired by the Greek mathematician’s idea that angling heat from the sun in just the right way would set the attacking Romans’ fleet on fire.

“There’s one thing you didn’t do…engage more manpower,” Obama informed the guys when they asked where they went wrong when testing it the first time.

So, in honor of Obama’s wish to get kids excited by science, Mythbusters recruited “a scrappy band of Greek soldiers” — or, 500 high school students—to aim their mirrors at a teeny-weeny focal spot painted on a boat sitting 400 feet from shore in San Francisco Bay.

Did you enjoy the episode? And what do you think – is today’s youth tomorrow’s saviours?

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  1. This was an engaging episode, and I’m impressed B-rock got involved. My predictions were that (a) in general, it should be possible to heat an object to the point of combustion with flat mirrors reflecting sunlight, but (b) any sort of airflow would transfer more heat away from the object than could be delivered at the sun’s level of radiant flux. Moreover, sails maximize surface area, so they were probably the least likely target material to combust.