After appearing 11 years on the Discovery Channel’s hit television show “Mythbusters,” Kari Byron still gets excited about science.
“Science is very cool,” says Byron, 39. “There’s a curiosity that’s fostered by science.”
Fans of the show can see just how cool it is when they test the validity of their own experiments at “Mythbusters: the Explosive Exhibition,” which opens today at the Museum of Science and Industry.
The exhibit, based on the Emmy-nominated show, features hands-on, interactive and often zany experiments straight from the show.
“Mythbusters” features co-hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, along with assistants Byron, Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara, who challenge popular myths with science.
Designed to look like the real-life operations room of the “MythBusters” set, the exhibit showcases more than 60 artifacts salvaged from more than 700 experiments conducted on the series, many hand-picked by the shows co-hosts.
The exhibit will feature the 20-foot mechanical shark used in a variety of mythbusting sessions; the jet pack; Hyneman’s tornado shelter; the “buried alive” coffin; the arrow machine gun; the book that took a bullet; the self-explanatory “chicken gun” and many more.
Visitors will be able to take a crack at debunking myths such as does walking or running keep you drier in a downpour? Can you build a canoe from duct tape? And can an ordinary playing card be thrown as a dangerous weapon, using the same methods as the show’s hosts.
“It’s a pretty awesome exhibit,” Byron adds. “It’s a real ‘Mythbusters’ experience and very hands on. This is the closest you’re going to get without being on the actual set.”
On the Discovery series, Byron has gone swimming with sharks to see if they were attracted to flashlights, tested strategies for deterring bear attacks and investigated how much dynamite it would take to create a surfable wave.
Byron, who is the only female mythbuster in the mix, says she enjoys being a role model and hopes the show helps girls and young women see science as educational and fun.
“I hear from so many young women who tell me they got interested in science because of the show,” Byron says. “That really touches me because when I was younger, I didn’t have female role models (in science) and I sort of lost interest in it. I want to keep girls interested in science.”
Byron, who originally wanted a career as a sculptor, got her start on the show after getting an internship at one of Hyneman’s special effects workshops.
“The first day I started interning, I landed on the show,” she recalls.
The success of “Mythbusters,” which made its debut in 2003, caught its stars by surprise, Byron says.
“I think it’s popular because we’re not scientists,” she says. “And we’re not talking down to people. We’re just average Joes doing experiments and explaining what’s happening.”
Asked about her favorite myth (either busted or true), Byron says she enjoyed proving that driving with the car windows up really does save gas, as does coasting downhill in neutral because they are practical and can help save money.
“I do it all the time,” she adds. “Though I don’t turn off the car when I’m waiting at stop a light, that wouldn’t be too practical.”