‘MythBusters’ Rains on the Museum of Science and Industry

BUSTED!?: A new exhibit on the Discovery Channel’s series soaks museumgoers in the name of science

'Running in the Rain,' an interactive display

On the Discovery Channel’s popular series MythBusters, which begins its ninth season this spring, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman blow up cars, fire projectiles, and get up close and personal with sharks—all in an effort to confirm or debunk common myths. In March, an 8,000-square-foot exhibit dedicated to the TV show opens at the Museum of Science and Industry. While MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition will tour museums nationwide, it was developed in Chicago as a collaboration of Discovery, the MSI, and the local exhibit design firms Ravenswood Studio and Geoffrey M. Curley and Associates. We asked the creators to take us through one of the 14 interactive displays, Running in the Rain. PLUS: Watch the episode in the video below.

THE MYTH
You’ll get wetter if you walk, rather than run, through a rainstorm.

THE TEST

1. A video at the display’s entrance provides background on the experiment, which Hyneman and Savage first conducted during the show’s debut season, in 2003, and revisited in 2005.

2. Guests enter the 20-foot chamber two at a time, following chaser lights (detail above) set to different speeds: One guest moves slowly—at about two and a half miles per hour, or a typical walking pace—and one jogs.

3. The chamber floor is made of nonskid, nonabrasive foam padding that is waterproof and mildew resistant—an example of just how much science went into crafting the exhibit, as the team tried 12 different materials before finding the right one.

4. An overhead system of nozzles used for irrigating pumpkins (detail above)—the best thing developers found for simulating actual rain showers—bathes the chamber, guests included, in water that has been treated with a pharmaceutical-grade fluorescent dye. The dye is safe and disappears without a trace, but not before guests have a chance to compare their clothing at the display’s end and decide who is more waterlogged.

5. A heavy-duty filtration system pumps the fallen rain—as much as 300 gallons an hour—from reservoirs under the chamber floor back up into tanks on the display’s roof. Finding a filter that wouldn’t dilute the dye over time was key; ultimately, the team settled on a chlorine-based system similar to those used in swimming pools.

6. Guests inspect themselves alongside their partners in mirrors and monitors set up at the display’s exit. The monitors are connected to black lights that filter out phosphor (a major component in laundry detergent) and accentuate the dye-enhanced water, allowing guests to see just how much rain ended up on each person’s clothes. On the show, Savage and Hyneman originally declared that walkers stayed drier than joggers but reversed their decision in 2005. Museumgoers can draw their own conclusions.

Watch the episode about running in the rain below:

GO MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition runs March 15 to September 3 at the Museum of Science and Industry; for info, msichicago.org.

 

Photograph: (Mythbusters) Blair Bunting/Getty Images/Courtesy of the Discovery Channel; Illustration: Jeffery West

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