‘MythBusters’ explodes into Chicago

By Trevor Ballanger

by Trevor Ballanger

Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

People are fascinated by the unknown. After all, it’s no myth that curiosity is part of human nature. One museum is willing to test how fascinated they are with a new exhibition that may just “bust” the minds of many Chicago inhabitants.

Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, opened its latest showcase, “MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition,” on March 15.

Inspired by the hit TV show “MythBusters,” the exhibition was developed by the museum, working directly with the Discovery Channel and the hosts of the program to create a unique experience that is both educational and fun.

Chris Wilson, director of Exhibit Project Management and Maintenance, said the first stage of creating the exhibition involved meeting with the “MythBusters” hosts in San Francisco, where the show is filmed. A survey of the shop was taken, as well as an overview of their props. Various conversations were held about the exhibition’s design concept.

One of the main obstacles to overcome was making science relatable to an audience. Wilson said Dan Tapster, an executive producer of the show, took a very hands-on approach to making the event “unambiguous” while being true to the scientific aspects to give people the chance to interact with and experience the material firsthand.

“I think that’s probably the most important point,” Wilson said. “It’s not really an exhibition about the ‘MythBusters.’ It’s an exhibition about the scientific method seen through the filter of that larger-than-life, highly experimental process that they go through on that show.”

Geoffrey Curley, creative and content leader of the exhibition, said The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the best scientific institutions in the world, making it a prime host for the exhibit’s world premier. The design process took more than one year to finish but allowed the museum to make the exhibit comprehensive.

“We’re not redoing what they did on the show,” Curley said. “We’re taking it to another level. We’re looking at it in a different way, and you can approach it separately and uniquely as a guest here.”

A large number of items from the show were loaned to the museum to ensure the highest quality experience. According to Wilson, they were able to get anything that wasn’t blown up on camera or disassembled and reused. Some larger props include a 20-foot-long mechanical shark and a full-size aero machine gun.

These things might sound too dangerous for anyone to be dealing with, let alone putting on TV, but Tory Belleci, Kari Byron and Grant Imahara, co-hosts of the show, along with Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, said their group takes safety very seriously. According to Belleci, it’s impossible to tell how an experiment is going to turn out.

When they’re blowing things up, former FBI agents are on set to make sure the cast is safe. Most of their stunts have to be approved by their insurance company, which curtails many ideas from being realized.

Byron said the MythBusters helped determine what went into the exhibition, which

was a long process because so much material needed to be sorted. Safety was also a concern in establishing appropriate props.

“It’s really hard to take our giant experiments that are not exactly going to be safe for the public and figure out what they could do in a small scale that kids could participate in,” Byron said. “So I think they spent a long time going through every experiment we’ve ever done to what they could actually make accessible here.”

A variety of interactive pieces are open for public use, although some may be more for amusement than others. One experiment called “The Big Bad Wolf” offers insight into the world of architecture. The goal is to make the most stable structure possible using blocks of varying densities. The structure is then placed in an air cannon and put to the test.

“One of the things we really shoot for is the ‘Aha!’ moments where you see the light go off in somebody’s head where they get something they didn’t understand before they got here,” Wilson said. “That’s what makes this job so great.”

“MythBusters” is close to wrapping up its 8th year on the Discovery Channel. The show is switching from its typical Wednesday night time slot to Sunday nights beginning March 25. Byron said the upcoming season will cover many topics involving ancient weaponry. Imahara added that if a person is interested in rockets, he or she will want to tune in to the new season.

“We’re just excited about this exhibit,” Belleci said. “It gives the fans an actual outlet to come and do, in a sense, the things that we do on the show. It gives them a chance to be like ‘MythBusters.’”

The show will run until Sept. 3. Tickets for general admission to the Museum of Science and Industry and “MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition” are $25 for Illinois residents. Admission for children ages 3–11 is $18 and senior admission is $24. The museum is open daily, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.