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Episode 52: Mind Control, Painting with Explosives

  • Painting a room with dynamite in a can of paint: busted
  • Mind Control
    • psionic helmet: busted
    • pulsed air: no effect on John's brain waves busted/
    • rotating magnet: did have an effect on John's brain waves, but there is a slight possibility it was affecting the EEG machine itself. plausible
    • silent sound: no effect on John's brain waves busted
    • remote hypnosis machine: there was a change in John's brain waves, though minor. plausible

Painting with Explosives

Myth: In an episode from Mr. Bean, Mr. Bean paints a room by sticking a stick of dynamite in a can of paint and blowing it up. On the wall was a silhouette of a neighbor caught in the room.

Previously: Exploding House/Bug Bomb


  • 1 gallon of paint: used a plastic container instead of metal so there wouldn't be a safety hazard with metal shrapnel
  • small room: a room they built to be as strong as a room in a house
  • Rescue Randy: in order to try and recreate the silhouette in the Mr. Bean episode
  • 1/3 pound of some kind of dynamic explosive. Detonates as 21,000 ft/s

Q: can a room withstand an explosion strong enough to 'paint' it?

Their explosives testing for this myth was at the Alameda County bomb disposal range (Adam: "Happiest Little Place on Earth"). After assembling their small room on site, Adam won the honors of setting off the explosive.

Jamie: "It ain't pretty, but I think maybe it will dress up with a nice coat of paint"

Jamie: "I'm so excited I just can't stand it!"

The door flew open and a window blew out, but the room stayed mostly standing. Large chunks of drywall were destroyed, as was the roof, and only 40% of the room was covered with paint. There was also no silhouette left by Rescue Randy.

Jamie: "If you were in this room, I would say, you would go from something like a chuck roast to a filet mignon. In other words, you'd be very tenderized"

Replicating the results

They built a small scale room on top of a work table to try and see if they could replicate the result. An action figure was placed inside the room to try and create a silhouette. Adam and Jamie tested competing designs. Adam's test design was a tall tube of paint with a straw full of explosive in the center to blow the paint outwards towards the wall. It did a descent job of creating a ring of paint around the room. Jamie's test design used a mortar-style explosive with the charge placed beneath the paint. The first explosion mostly painted the ceiling.

Based on the test results, Jamie decided to use a cluster of five pyramid-shaped paint mortars: one to shoot at each wall. Adam decided to wrap tubes of paint around a det cord. His hope was that the det cord would vaporize the paint and direct it outwards in a ring. He built the container for the paint out of polyethylene heat-sealed into tubes and settled on a 50-grade det cord.

Back at the Alameda test range, they rebuilt the room to test their new designs.

Jamie's prediction for Adam's setup: "What f-- do I know what kind of coverage it's gonna do? There's gonna be some paint that will get on the wall, and it's not gonna be that even."

Adam's det cord didn't destroy the room, but it didn't paint the room very well either. Adam: "I thought it would be a little better than that... coverage: total crap, unfortunately."

Jamie setup his "flower of death" mortar with five different colors for each wall, half a gallon of paint each. Each mortar had it's own det cord and the bags of paint were duct-taped in.

Jamie's mortar had worse results than Adam's. It shot out the paint in the right direction but didn't spread it.

Adam: "It's actually a fantastic way to do abstract expressionist painting... Each wall actually is like a different phase of [Pollock's] career."

busted: with some more time and testing, they would be able to improve on their result, but there would still be debris and shrapnel -- it's not a viable way to paint your house.

Mind Control

Myth: The government can control your mind.

For the purposes of the experiment, they defined 'mind control' as a device which can remotely influence a person's behavior without their knowledge or consent. They also used the same rule they used to test free energy (perpetual motion) (Perpetual Motion episode guide): they can only using plans, kits, or patents they can find on the Web.

They started off with 3 kits from the Internet:

  • Psionic helmet (scroll down to "Psionic Helmet"). It was basically a bicycle helmet with a wooden dowel wrapped in leather and topped with a crystal, which Grant 'fine-tuned' with some control knobs.
  • Electronic hypnotizer: a device that emits a variety of annoying sounds.
  • Silent sound mind control device (scroll down to "Electronic Mind Control (upgraded)")

Real-world tests

Tory tried to use the psionic helmet to get Jamie to remove his beret. Jamie smirked at Tory's attempt to non-chalantly tune in the helmet while making casual conversation. The beret stayed on

They then went to a restaurant to see if Tory could place an order without moving his lips. The manager ran through nearly every item on the menu without getting it right. Tory finally gave up, took off the helmet, and said, "alright, give me a mocha." The patrons mocked the experiment, claiming they knew the order. "Are you sure you don't have it on backwards?"

EEG tests and patented devices

They hooked up an EEG to try and see if there was any way in which brain waves were altered. They created an isolation room in which they could test if a subject's brain waves changed.

Grant chose 2 patents that both 'exploit' the 1/2 hertz sensory resonance, which is supposed to exploit the brain's own frequency.

  • pulse air (subliminal acoustic manipulator)
  • rotating bar magnet

They put Kari in the isolation chamber and hooked her up to the EEG electrodes to check their equipment. After fixing the fan that Tory mounted backwards, they were able to get to work. They banged on the door to surprise Kari, which elicited a scream and a jump on the EEG. "That's cool, it worked."

For the actual test, they put John the Researcher in the isolation chamber as he had been kept in the dark as to what was going on. John was given 5 minutes without any stimuli so that they could get a good baseline. They first used the pulsed air machine on John. John appeared unmoved. They then tested the rotating bar magnet, but once again John didn't seem to be affected.

Next up was the subliminal sound device. Tory: "Touch nose. Touch nose.... Touch your nose you little punk." (and on and on). They finally tested the annoying sound device: John's brain waves finally reacted and John touched his nose. Was he affected by sound or was it just an itch? It was just an itch, as the EEG showed no effect.

  • psionic helmet: busted
  • pulsed air: no effect on John's brain waves busted
  • rotating magnet: did have an effect on John's brain waves, but there is a slight possibility it was affecting the EEG machine itself. plausible
  • silent sound: no effect on John's brain waves busted
  • remote hypnosis machine: there was a change in John's brain waves, though minor. plausible

Even though they marked some as 'plausible', none would actually alllow direct control of someone else -- at best, you can alter their brain waves.


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