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President Obama To Appear On Mythbusters 795

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the busting-the-citizenship-myth-at-last dept.
Muondecay writes "President Obama will be featured in the December 8th MythBusters episode, 'Archimedes Solar Ray,' during which he will challenge Adam and Jamie to revisit an ancient and somewhat controversial myth: Did Greek scientist and polymath Archimedes set fire to an invading Roman fleet using only mirrors and the reflected rays of the sun during the Siege of Syracuse? This is part of a White House effort to highlight the importance of science education."
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President Obama To Appear On Mythbusters

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  • The Greeks (Score:5, Funny)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Monday October 18, 2010 @02:43PM (#33936172) Homepage Journal

    Did Greek scientist and polymath Archimedes set fire to an invading Roman fleet using only mirrors and the reflected rays of the sun during the Siege of Syracuse?

    - probably, but you can count on this: if UN existed at that time, they would have banned any of this 'Sun Blotting or Reflecting'.

    • Penn and Teller (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:15PM (#33936780) Journal
      Somehow, I'd rather see politicians appear on the "Penn and Teller: Bullshit!" series than on Mythbusters. Penn and Teller often deal with issues that politicians could address, if they were so inclined. Several politicians and bureaucrats have been on the show, mostly promoting ludicrous stupidity, but occasionally being almost sensible.
  • by Manip (656104) on Monday October 18, 2010 @02:43PM (#33936178)
    They're doing Archimedes solar ray AGAIN? Aren't we up to three already (the original myth and two revisits)? Obviously I think it is fun that Obama will be on the show but frankly aside from that I really don't want to see that same tired Myth for a third time...
    • by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:06PM (#33936632) Homepage Journal

      Those were both before the recent events of a certain Las Vegas hotel and their shiny new Death Ray... http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2010/09/29/las_vegas_death_ray/ [theregister.co.uk]

      Now, it's less 'myth' and more 'national security crisis'...

  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orphiuchus (1146483) on Monday October 18, 2010 @02:48PM (#33936260)
    I don't really have a problem with the president appearing on random TV shows a few times during their term, but I would really like Obama to spend less time being cool and more time fixing shit.
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CannonballHead (842625) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:06PM (#33936630)

      How to be a good supporter of your candidate:

      When a president you like is in office and doesn't do "enough," you claim that the President doesn't really have a lot of power and is more of a figurehead, like royalty.

      When a president you dislike is in office and doesn't do "enough," you claim that the President should be doing more.

      When a president you like is out of office, you blame everything that went wrong in his term on Congress.

      When a president you dislike is out of office, you blame everything that went wrong in his term on him.

      When a president you like is in office and something bad is happening (e.g., the economy), you blame it on the previous administration, because economic problems take a while to develop.

      When a president you dislike is in office and something bad is happening (e.g., the economy), you blame it on the current President or the previous Congress.

      • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Eskarel (565631) on Monday October 18, 2010 @11:04PM (#33942182)

        Not exactly accurate, though obviously some people do do this.

        The nature of the current political system in the US is that, for the most part, the president provides a strategic direction for the country and congress either follows that strategic direction or doesn't. When a president provides a strategic direction which and congress goes along with it, it is fair to give credit or blame the president. When the president provides a strategic direction and congress does not follow it or mutates it into a monstrosity) then it is fair that congress gets the blame or credit.

        Specifically, Bush wanted to get us into two pointless wars which diminished US national security, cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars, enact legislation which would destroy civil liberties, and open a torture camp in Cuba, all of which congress let him do.

        Obama on the other hand has been dealing with a bunch of congress critters who have been only out for their own skin and generally shooting down or warping everything he's tried to do. This has been so excessive that incumbents on both sides are in serious jeopardy this November.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:51PM (#33937452)

      and more time fixing shit.

      This. Right here. This is the problem. Everyone sitting around waiting for Uncle Sam/Samantha to "fix" things.

      Yeah, good luck with that.

  • Wanted: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CaptSlaq (1491233) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:00PM (#33936502)
    -1 (flamebait) rating for articles.
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:03PM (#33936570) Journal
    I'd love to get to meet Kari Byron, too, but he went to all the trouble to get elected *President* just to arrange an introduction? Guy's got style and determination, no doubt.
  • by nedigital (148927) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:04PM (#33936584)

    Since they tried and failed to prove this myth previously they decided to call in an expert in smoke and mirrors !

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:08PM (#33936670) Journal

    Say this battle happened. How do we know for certain? Because X number of people wrote about it or wrote about people having told them about it or having being told about people who heard it from others. If X is large enough, we accept it as fact. If not, well then it becomes myth or religion.

    Now, imagine a battle. Ships are going to attack an harbor. Ships ain't easily destroyed by the weapons of the age and worse, if you can hit them, they can hit you. They might be unable to hide, but neither can you, you are on the walls of the defences and the enemy knows this.

    So, how can you protect your archers from their archers? Blinding light? Pose them beside mirrors and the enemy can't see them. Simple trick if you think about it. With this blinding light, you can fire countless arrows, even heavy slow ones like fire-arrows and aim at ease.

    How would such a tactic, written down by someone who didn't understand and heard it from someone else be recorded?

    The mighty ships sailed at the harbour and a blinding light erupted from the walls and one by one the mighty ships were set on fire and sunk.

    Death ray is born. Nothing more then smoke and mirrors.

    THAT is what disappoints me about the Myth Busters. They far to often examine only part of a myth or add their own elements, the worsed of it being "well we two couldn't do it, so no-one could". Well, I doubt the myth busters could put a man on the moon. So the moon landings are a myth?

    Take the pycrete "myth". Why the paper substitution? THAT is not what the myth is about. And I still don't know how such a ship could have set sail. After all I presumed WW2 admirals were smart enough to ask "won't it melt". So why wouldn't it have melted?

    Or the Jaws myth. "We are going to examine wether a very large movie monster can ram a ship, but we are going to use a smaller shark because sharks ain't that large in real life..." No shit sherlock. And sharks also don't ram ships in real life.

    What next, I am going to test if my cat likes tuna by feeding it dog shit. If it doesn't like that that proofs it doesn't like tuna?

    As for the movie myths. Can a pen explode, kill a room of baddies but leave the hero intact... NO. If you think James Bond has myths, you REALLY need to get out more.

    The program was okay but has rapidly gone in the general direction of Discovery. Here is a hint. Gay fat guys building bling-bling bikes is NOT science. Mind you, they can go lower. Cakes? Tatoo shops? Why not just relabel it Oprahs Channel and be done with it.

    So cool, they are once again going to proof a couple of overweight Americans can't build something that is highly unlike to have ever existed and if it did, not have been able to destroy and entire fleet before the soldiers landed (or swam ashore) and destroyed it. That is supposed to encourage Americans back to science? Fat chance.

    We know what Americans think about science. We can see it in the nose-dive the science content on Myth-busters has taken. Unless it goes boom, not intrested. Note the increasing lack of myths that do not go boom.

    • by demonbug (309515) on Monday October 18, 2010 @04:54PM (#33938520) Journal

      So, how can you protect your archers from their archers? Blinding light? Pose them beside mirrors and the enemy can't see them. Simple trick if you think about it. With this blinding light, you can fire countless arrows, even heavy slow ones like fire-arrows and aim at ease.

      How would such a tactic, written down by someone who didn't understand and heard it from someone else be recorded?

      The mighty ships sailed at the harbour and a blinding light erupted from the walls and one by one the mighty ships were set on fire and sunk.

      Death ray is born. Nothing more then smoke and mirrors.

      THAT is what disappoints me about the Myth Busters. They far to often examine only part of a myth or add their own elements, the worsed of it being "well we two couldn't do it, so no-one could". Well, I doubt the myth busters could put a man on the moon. So the moon landings are a myth?

      I agree that Mythbusters often doesn't exhaustively test myths, but that generally isn't realistic. You have to set some boundaries and often make some assumptions in order to come up with a testable hypothesis.

      Take your hypothetical interpretation of the Death Ray myth - if you are going to start coming up with hypothetical ways that the myth may have come into being, then there is simply no way to test them all. Maybe it was a sunny day, and light was reflecting off the shields of the city's defenders. In a completely unrelated event, someone in one of the ships dropped an oil lamp and started a fire. If the ships were closely grouped, and it was a windy day, numerous ships could be consumed in such a fire; some dude watching interpreted the fire as the result of the reflected light, and recorded it as such. Is it possible? Absolutely. But that isn't what the myth says. And there are innumerable other potential explanations, none of which really have any bearing on what they are doing.

      They are testing the myth, not (usually) what potential events may have caused the event that gave birth to the myth. In this case, the myth is that Archimedes developed a weapon using focused light to start fires on attacking ships. That is all they were testing - not trying to figure out what might have happened, but trying to determine whether the myth, as recorded, is plausible. In order to do that, they have to make some assumptions to narrow the test - try to stick to materials that would have been available at the time, etc.

      Now, I often take issue with their test methods and interpretations, but on the whole I think they do a reasonable job of taking a myth, defining what aspect of the myth it is that they are testing, and then devising different tests and quantifying the results. It is a fair balance of entertainment and genuine testing to find out neat stuff; while I (and probably most Slashdot readers) would like them to be a little more rigorous and at least acknowledge shortcomings in their tests, it would be very easy to get bogged down in details ("rigor" in the oblig. xkcd) and then instead of Mythbusters you would have the Televised Transactions of the American Society of Materials Engineering, Physics, and History, and all of five people would still be interested in watching.

  • by monoqlith (610041) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:10PM (#33936698)

    Did Greek scientist and polymath Archimedes set fire to an invading Roman fleet using only mirrors and the reflected rays of the sun during the Siege of Syracuse?

    No.

  • by morgauxo (974071) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:25PM (#33936944)
    Maybe they will bust the myth that he is any different from George W Bush or any of the other freedom hating Republican and Democrat politicians.
  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:30PM (#33937050) Homepage Journal
    This article is, for some unclear reason, tagged "politics". Just because a politician shows up somewhere does not make an event political; the Easter Egg Hunt every year at the whitehouse is not automatically a "democratic" or "republican" event just because the POTUS is one or the other.

    Unless, of course, the people who are tagging this science event "politics" are stating that the democrats are pro-science and the republicans are anti-science, which is at least partially true.
  • by narcc (412956) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:36PM (#33937162) Journal

    "This is part of a White House effort to highlight the importance of science education"

    I'm not sure how the two are related. Every time I've seen the show they've gone out of their way to hide any science content from the viewer.

    When it's been unavoidable, they've shown placards reading "Warning: Science content"

    From my perspective, Mythbusters seems pretty anti-science.

    • by Galaga88 (148206) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:59PM (#33937562)

      Really? Because I'm pretty sure they follow a fair approximation of the scientific method.

      1. Define the question (Can you destroy ships using an Archimedes style death-ray?)
      2. Gather information and resources (They look up how he theoretically did it.)
      3. Form hypothesis (Reflective shields using ancient construction materials are (in)sufficient to focus light to function as a death ray.)
      4. Perform experiment and collect data (They build a giant death ray and try to burn up a ship.)
      5. Analyze data (Did the ship burn? Which parts burned? Which parts didn't? Did the mirrors act as expected?)
      6. Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for a new hypothesis (The heat simply built up too slowly to set the ship on fire effectively. Smaller scale reproductions showed that further tests could be warranted.)
      7. Publish results (Tune into Discovery HD next week at xxx o'clock.)
      8. Retest (Their second and third goes at the myth.)

      Looks like a textbook example of the scientific method to me.

    • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday October 18, 2010 @04:00PM (#33937588)

      When it's been unavoidable, they've shown placards reading "Warning: Science content"

      That's what eventually drove me away from the show. That and the over the top "ZOMG! That explodey was the coolest thing in the history of humanity!" breathless reactions.

      "Well, we tested several computer myths today, so the only logical thing left to do is strap C4 explosives to the computers and detonate them out on the bomb range."

      "Well, we tested several car myths today, so the only logical thing left to do is strap C4 explosives to the cars and detonate them out on the bomb range."

      "Well, we tested several foot odor myths today, so the only logical thing left to do is strap C4 explosives to Grant's feet and detonate them out on the bomb range."

      OK, it's fun the first three times or so, but after a while... meh. I can just tune over to "Destroyed In Seconds" and see real world things blowing up much more awesomely in a totally uncontrolled manner. I'll pit footage of an F5 tornado tossing semis about filmed by some crazy stormchaser against anything on Mythbusters.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Bemopolis (698691)
      Obligatory xkcd [xkcd.com] pageslap.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Abstrackt (609015)

      I always got the impression that they managed to sneak a bit of science in between the "hurr... explosion" moments, like when they said it wasn't possible to open the door of a sinking car until the pressure equalized or explained why golf balls have dimples.

      It's not a science-filled show by any standard but it does have its moments and I believe they do a good job of getting the layperson at least somewhat interested in science.

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