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Episode 9: Chicken Gun

  • Frozen chickens cause more damage than thawed chickens when fired from a gun: confirmed
  • Killer washing machine: busted
  • Octopus eggs hatching inside a human: busted

Two cool myths, one lame one, all were pretty obscure. In fact, the cool ones sounded like they made them up just so they could build some cool stuff.

Chicken Gun

Update: This myth was revisited and it turns out that frozen chickens are more damaging (REVISIT)

Cool Myth #1: NASA builds a chicken gun to fire chicken carcasses at their windshields. A European company hears about this and uses a chicken gun to test their railroad cars. When they fire, the chicken flies through the windshield and embeds itself in a seat way back in the car. They write NASA about this, to which NASA replies, "thaw your chickens."

So, in essence, they were testing whether a frozen chicken does more damage than a thawed chicken. But I just think they wanted to build a chicken gun. And a chicken gun they did build.

Jamie ended up using a 250 psi tank with a butterfly valve on the cannon and a big fat lever to pull down in order to launch the chicken. This thing annihilated the chickens, turning them into puree. They also loaded in a pumpkin for good measure and managed to puncture the fuselage of the plane they were using for target practice. Result of myth: when a chicken is flying that fast, it don't matter what temperature it is.

Killer washing machine

Cool Myth #2: This one was so absurd and busted so quickly and on so many accounts. The story is that a guy is so lazy that he wants to clean all of his 50 pounds of clothes at once. He steps on the clothes to try and jam them into the washer, and ends up slipping down into the machine. In doing so, he activates the spin cycle, which whirls him around, knocking over some bleach into his eyes, and eventually kills him from the whirling/impacts. There was also some silly tidbit about a dog wandering in, peeing on some spilled baking soda, which results in a small explosion.

This myth had Jamie and Adam wandering around the Mission District picking up clothes and what looked like Dolores Park in order to collect some dog urine. What made this myth cool was that as they quickly showed how unfeasible it was (washing machines can be stopped with your bare hands), they then went overboard in trying to replicate the results. Jamie found an engine from an electric car and hooked that up using a chain from a motorcycle. The washing machine now had over a hundred horsepower.

When they spun up the machine with Buster lodged in it, his arms spun around like a top destroying the shelves around him and sent the machine skidding around. It was pretty cool.

Octopus eggs hatching inside a human

The last myth was lame, diver swallows octopus egg, octopus hatches in stomach, yadda, yadda, busted.


my opinion might not be so important because i am only in grade 7 but like, the frozen chicken is gonna hit harder because it is harder...that was kinda obvious but o well it made a pretty good episode

I can't believe these guys doubted a frozen chicken would cause more damage. Think of it as throwing a bowl of jello at your corvette as hard as you can, not much damage. Now freeze it so its a bowl of frozen ice jello. Still the same jello, now throw it at your corvette as hard as you can...

But then again, thawed jello, if moving fast enough still does have mass and, according to the law of opposite and equal force, could dent your corvette pretty badly.

Thus, their statement that "when a chicken is flying that fast, it don't matter what temperature it is." is exactly correct -- it says nothing about whether a frozen chicken causes more damage at a given speed, only that given enough speed, even a thawed chicken can cause damage.

But I would suggest that above a certain speed, whether it's frozen or not may actually make no difference in how much damage it does -- or at least far less difference then one would expect.

Go to a lake some time when the weather is nice, wade out to waist deep, then hold your hand flat and hit a glancing blow against the water as hard and fast as you can. You will find that the water feels like a hard object. Thus, high speed water becomes effectively a hard object -- the faster it goes the harder it gets. Ice, on the other hand, just shatters above a certain stress, and does not become any harder. So above a certain speed, whether a mass of water is frozen or not becomes less and less important. And by the way, they use high-speed water jets to cut stuff -- and I personally cut half way through a healthy 2x4 with a 5000PSI honda pressure washer, once.

So it well may be true to say as well that "If the chicken is going fast enough, it does the same damage regardless of whether it's frozen."

Though it is true, thawed jello has an opposite and equal reaction equal to frozen jello of the same mass, the statement "when a chicken is flying that fast, it don't matter what temperature it is." is overly symplistic.
The entire reason for the difference is the increased 'hardness' of the frozen chicken. The frozen chicken is more rigid, and the entire mass of the chicken must be decelerated at once, and contacts only a small area on the glass. The thawed chicken is much more deformable, decelerates over a longer period of time, and mushes out over a larger area of glass. The result, the frozen chicken has a much higher peak force per unit area, the thawed chicken a much lower peak, spread evenly over time and area.
So if Newtons third law applies so does Newtons second law.
Also, the water examples in this case are not valid, the physics of water and solids are vastly different. The phenomenan exsperienced when hitting water at a high rate of speed is caused by surface tension. Essentialy, the water cannot get out of the way fast enough. However, no matter how fast you hit a rock it will always have the same surface tension, and it will always hurt.

I was just watching a re-run of that myth. (I live in Brazil. Some shows take a while to get here)

Let me just add this: IT DOES matter how fast you are going, concerning the chicken. And it DOES matter if the chicken is frozen or thawed.

It does because either NASA or the train company were testing the resistance of the material being used on their products against the environment. You will never hit a FROZEN chicken when you are flying or riding a high speed train. Thus NASA replying "Thaw your chicken" makes all the sense in the world. They were sticking to reality.

Testing the amount of impact a frozen or thawed chicken have was a lot of fun, but I feel this explanation was missing.

Uhhm, I have a different slant on this one. About 20 years ago I had to do a video animation of the device in question for Rolls Royce who test bird strikes on engines with this. The guy who'd invented the gun was there and he told me the direction the chicken faced made all the difference as the birds sternum striking first (face forwards) did more damage.