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Urban myths and legends get busted

Published Jan 6, 2006

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Can you float a boat using ping pong balls? How about setting another kind of boat on fire using solar power?

Will Chinese water torture really drive you crazy? And will a potato in the exhaust cause a car to stall?

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This kind of urban legend and myth is the territory of Mythbusters (8pm Mondays to Fridays, Discovery Channel on DStv).

This has to be one of the most engrossing programmes on the telly at the moment. Visual and special effects experts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage are the mythbusters of the title and in each episode they set about either proving or disproving a variety of stories.

Along the way, they build all sorts of machines and contraptions, revel in blowing things up or destroying them, and often end up getting mildy hurt or being exposed to nasty things. Like skunk juice. Or a dead pig in a car.

Good news for fans is that this month there is an extra dose of these two crazy men every Saturday at 8pm. Coming up tomorrow, the outtakes...

Jamie is a rather humourless chap, with a bald head and bristling walrus moustache. He always dresses in a crisp white shirt, black trousers, beret and red sneakers. He is an excellent shot. Adam fools around a lot more. He has orange hair (when he hasn't burned it all off) and a low pain threshold.

In some episodes, Jamie and Adam are joined by the junior mythbusters - Tory, Scottie (who is the hottest chick ever, and she can do anything the boys can) and Christine.

In a recent episode, the mythbusters tackled the story of the scuba diver found burned to death in a tree.

It's a famous story, and has even been used in an episode of CSI. The usual explanation is that the scuba diver was scooped up by a firefighting helicopter and dumped, along with the water, on a forest fire.

The CSI episode had another answer, and so did Jamie and Adam. It turns out there is no way a human can fit inside a Bambi bucket, and neither can one be sucked up by the big helicopters. Myth busted.

I've also learned the best way to get rid of that skunk smell, and that produce (potato, banana or egg) up a car's exhaust does no damage. Sugar in the petrol tank has no discernible effect, although mothballs seem to enhance performance. What will kill a car, though, is bleach in the oil.

Last week, we saw the Ultimate Mythbusters, which pitted Adam and Jamie against each other in a series of tests. So who's the best? You'll have to wait for the repeat.

Tonight

Huff (M-Net, 22.45pm): Oh dear. Huff came this close to having an affair last week. And Beth looks like she is on the brink too. In tonight's episode, Huff begins to suspect something is going on between his wife and the handsome chef.

Tomorrow

Star Trek Festival (e.tv, 2.30pm): According to the website Wikipedia, Star Trek collectively refers to six science-fiction television series spanning 726 episodes and 10 movies, in addition to hundreds of novels, video games and other works of fiction, all set within the same fictional universe created by Gene Roddenberry in the mid-1960s.

e.tv's festival begins with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the first feature film based on the television series.

Wife Swap (M-Net, 5pm): Meet the Burkhlaters: Sue and Jeff lead a good, "white" life in small-town Mississippi. Life is for living; alcohol, eating out, boat rides, crawfish cook-outs and an open-door policy mean that life is never quiet. Their two children, Nancy, 21, and Laura Beth,17, have been smothered with love. They know it and they know how to use it: they go to bed when they want, get up when they want, spend their parents' money as often as possible and do nothing around the house.

Shelley and Carl Elliott live in one of the many up-and-coming black neighbourhoods outside Washington. They are proud of their black heritage and, with their strong Christian faith, believe in betterment and progress. This is a house of rules and discipline where the two children's - Justine, 14, and Javier, 11 - "fun time" is limited: they know their place and never step out of line. See the drama that unfolds as these two families swop homes and lives for 10 days.

Jack & Bobby (M-Net, 7pm): In the season finale, Jack and Bobby discover that Grace plans to visit their father, Juan (guest star Lou Diamond Phillips, who else?), in a Texas prison. Bobby insists on joining her, and with Jack they embark on a spontaneous road trip, during which Grace is forced to reveal the shocking reason their father is in prison.

The future reveals Jack's heartbreaking fate and details Bobby's unlikely road to the presidency. And, for the first time, the voice of President McCallister (Academy Award winner Tim Robbins) is heard.

Sunday

Did Jesus Die? (e.tv, 6.05pm): This controversial documentary makes a detailed inspection of the events leading up to the crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. It considers intellectual views from various theorists, historical researchers and academics.

In the week

E.R. (M-Net, Monday at 7.30pm): What a harrowing episode this week.

Tonight, Abby returns to the ER even though she is still experiencing the trauma of her recent abduction. Will she stay true to her word not to say anything?

Falling In Love (e.tv, 10.15pm): While Christmas shopping for their families, architect Frank Raftis and graphic artist Molly Gilmore meet by chance when their holiday packages become mixed up. They fall desperately in love, but both realise that what they're doing is wrong. Starring Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep.

Smallville (M-Net, Tuesday at 7.30pm): Kevin Grady possesses the ability to make people lose their memories. Kevin unleashes his power on Clark, causing him to suffer total amnesia. Chloe (Allison Mack) discovers Clark's malady and teaches him about his superpowers while simultaneously trying to keep Clark from accidentally revealing his powers to others.

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