MythBusters/Barrel of Bricks, Pissing on the Third Rail, Eel Skin Wallet
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Barrel of Bricks, Pissing on the Third Rail, Eel Skin Wallet is the third episode of the first season of MythBusters, and the sixth episode overall.
Is it really that dangerous to answer the call of nature on the electrified third rail of a train track? Can an eel skin wallet erase all the magnetic information on your credit cards if the skin came from an electric eel? How about the story of the unluckiest construction worker on earth? A pulley system breaks down while he is lifting a barrel filled with 500 pounds of bricks. Will the barrel come straight down on the guy doing the pulling, or will he walk away without a scratch? Jamie and Adam take a crack at these classic legends.
Barrel of Bricks
A man working in a construction yard is dangling a barrel of bricks a few storeys off the ground when it becomes too heavy for him and the barrel falls. The man flies up and gets his figure jammed in the pulley. The barrel hits the ground and breaks causing the man to fall back down to the ground and the barrel to fly back up. He hits the ground and lets go of the rope, causing it to fall on top of him.
The Mythbusters decide that to recreate this myth, they must build a scaffolding and attach a pulley to the top. Then need a pulley that can withstand 500 pounds of bricks and not break. They learn that this myth is fairly well known in the construction industry, but no one has ever witnessed it. They setup a rig that will allow them to test out this myth. They soon learn that after loading 500 pounds of bricks onto the pipe that is supporting the pulley is a bad idea because the pipe starts to bend. They quickly try out the test and it fails because the barrel didn't break. They reinforce the pipe and weaken the barrel and try again. Again they fail. Finally, they completely remove all support from the barrel and place a block of wood for the barrel to land on and try again. This time it is successful and the barrel breaks causing the bricks to fly out and Buster to fly up and hit the pulley. To make it even more amusing, when Buster hits the ground, the barrel smashes on top of him. The Mythbusters are very amused by this and try again for fun, however Buster hits the barrel in midair causing bricks to fly everywhere.
Busted, but Plausible. The myth is from a 1918 joke book and has never happened, however the Mythbusters determine that it is possible for this to occur, however highly unlikely.
Peeing on the Third Rail
A guy is wandering through a railyard drunk and needs to relieve himself. He makes sure no trains are coming and he starts to pee onto the third rail, which is electrical, and a current runs through his urine and kills him.
First the Mythbusters must determine if it is actually possible for urine to conduct electricty. They learn that the voltage of the third rail is 650 volts and they determine that the resistance of urine is 10,000 Ohms. Using Ohm's Law they determine that it can resistance 65 miliamps and all that is need to make you stop breathing is 30 miliamps. Now that they know it is possible to be killed through urine, they go about making a body out of ballestics gel and figure out how to make the dummy urinate. After many failures of making the dummy and success with urinating machine, they finally are able to test. They set up the dummy so that it will urinate onto a mock third rail that they set up. The first test shows no results. They decide to make the ground below the dummy wet and try again, however nothing happens. They try removing the shoes and making the ground wet again, however failure. They determine that the stream is not constant because by the time it has hit the rail it has broken up into drops. They increase the size of the tube that allows urine to exit and move the rail up so it is a few centimetres away. They try this time to success.
Busted. Although it is possible for someone to kill themselves by peeing on the third rail, it is very unlikely. (Note, this myth is revisited in Myths Revisited)
The myth is that people with eel-skin wallets have been experiancing problems with their credit cards being demangetized and this is because of the eel-skin which has a trace of electricty creating a magnetic field causing the card to be wiped.
Create a number of fake credit cards and see if eel-skin has any effect on it. As well, they test a number of other small myths about credit cards. Firstly they see if anything happens with only a few seconds exposure to the wallet but nothing happens when tested, busted. They try leaving it in for a few minutes and trying it, nothing happens, busted. They try leaving it in a wallet for 24 hours, busted again. Then try and determine how much magnestism it would require to wipe a card. Using an electromagnet, they determine it would take at least 1000 gauss to wipe a card. The Earth's magnetic field is one gauss. They look at a number of household objects and they only get as high as 70 gauss which is no where near the needed 1000. To finally prove the myth busted, they put a credit card in a tank of electric eels and again nothing happens.
Busted. It is not possible for a eel-skin wallet to wipe a credit card based on their tests, it is just not powerful enough.