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Fri, Dec.24.2004:12:59 AM

Mythbusters: Ming Dynasty Astronaut

Ming Dynasty Astronaut

This myth comes from the story of a Ming dynasty (~1500 AD) astrologer who strapped 47 rockets to a chair, lit them off, and vanished in a puff of smoke -- records claim he was launched into space.

To reconstruct the rockets of that time, they found some 3/4" bamboo poles to build 1' rockets. The rockets were filled with homebrewed gunpowder (charcoal/sulfur/saltpeter) mimicking the historical ingredients. The bamboo was also wrapped in twine for strength.

Adam had a lot of trouble cooking up the bamboo. Hoping for as much as 50 pounds of thrust out of each rocket, his first mixture got a grand total of... a half a pound of thrust. Changing the ratios around, there was shot after shot of wimpy rocket firing off. Adam's best only managed 0.77 pounds, so at last they called in rocketeers from the JATO myth for help (who had a mixture that could manage 5 pounds of thurst per rocket).

For the experiment in the Mohav desert, they built two elaborate rocket chair thrones: one to be launched according to myth, one to be launched with more modern rockets (imotors?) that had 50 pounds of thrust each.

The first chair with the 'authentic' rockets pretty much reproduced the myth. There was a big explosion of smoke leaving a void where there was once Buster and throne, except the throne was blown to smithereens and Buster was a smoking heap on the ground, instead of in space (they may need to find him new skin now). The heat from the adjancent rockets was too much and the rockets exploded.

The second chair produced different results. After getting a couple feet of liftoff, the throne flipped over and the rockets proceeded to push Buster into the ground (breaking a leg).


Free Energy

Adam and Jamie tested various free energy myths, which is their "biggest file" they have for mythbusting. There is no end to different ideas for free energy, but they settled on a couple that they were able to downloaded specs for off the net.

  1. G-strain amplifier (actually a ring oscillator) that sucks power from the curvature of space. They ran two motors simulatenously, one with the device, one without: the free energy motor went first.

  2. Temperature wheel: wheel of tanks joined together by spokes set in a pool of water. Half of the tanks filled with propane, which settles to the water side of the wheel. The sun heats water, which heats propane and causes it to shift to other side of wheel, which induces rotation. The wheel worked, though the best designs only manage one rotation per minute. The device is a basic solar energy harvester.

  3. Radio wave power harnesser: a 100' antenna that captures radio waves to induce current. The device generated a whopping half a volt.

  4. Perpetual motion machine: blah

Ceiling Fan of Death

Can a ceiling fan chop your head off? The tested two different approaches: jumping up into a fan, and coming in from the side.

The build team built rather disgusting dummy heads/necks for this, filling a Adam's ballistic head mold with a pig's spine and skull. They picked up one household ceiling fan (~20+mph) and one industrial strength fan (~50+mph) from House of Fans and rigged the dummy heads to hit the fans from the two approach angles.

Unsurprisingly (if you've ever put your hand up into a ceiling fan), the household fan did nothing to the dummy head. The industrial fan managed a bit more damage, perhaps doing enough to break the skull or cutting the neck.

In order to "replicate the myth," Tory and Scottie rigged up a lawn mower motor to a custom blade of death. The contraption absolutely annhiliated the dummy head, ripping the head/neck to shreds, though not actually doing enough damage to decapitate.

The dummy heads were perhaps a bit too realistic because it seemed that they were hesitant to show some of the footage of the dummy head being hit.


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i really liked the ming dynasty astronaut myth

Posted by: chris ortloff at April 12, 2005 12:10 AM
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