The MythBusters The MythBusters

MythBusters Episode 48: Franklin’s Kite

Premier Date: March 8, 2006

Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity by flying a kite during a thunderstorm.


The experiment itself worked perfectly as described, but the current produced by artificial lightning (which is a fraction of what a real lightning bolt would contain) was fatal. Based on this observation, the Build Team concluded that Franklin could not possibly have survived a direct hit as the popular story of the experiment states. They also found that the kite need not be directly struck by lightning in order for the experiment to work. Experiment: confirmed; Myth: busted.

(This is not an accurate description of the “Franklin kite story.” According to H.W. Brand’s biography The First American, the story is as follows: Franklin flew a silk kite (with a hemp line holding a metal key near the end) underneath a cloud during a thunderstorm. Franklin connected the device to a piece of silk to insulate himself. After some time flying the kite, he noticed the fibers on the hemp line standing up as though charged. He touched the key with his knuckle and felt a charge from the accumulated electricity in the air, not from a lightning strike.)

Flatulence can be induced by consuming beans.


While consuming a diet of beans for one day, Adam’s rate of flatulence doubled.

Flatulence can be induced by consuming carbonated soft drinks.


While consuming only carbonated drinks for one day, Kari’s rate of flatulence doubled.

Flatulence can be induced by consuming beef.


Jamie’s rate of flatulence did not change after consuming a diet of beef for one day.

It is possible to fart so much, you can suffocate from the gas expelled.


The amount of potentially deadly gases found in an average flatus, such as carbon dioxide, is too low to cause its concentration to rise to fatal levels in a few hours, even in a small airtight room. In fact, breathing causes the CO2 levels to rise much faster.

Lighting a match will burn the odorous gases in a flatus.


Lighting a match does not reduce the concentration of hydrogen sulfide and methyl mercaptan, the odorous gases commonly found in flatulence. The smell of a safety match being ignited instead masks the smell of methyl mercaptan.

Girls do not pass gas.


Kari was fitted with special underwear equipped with a microphone connected to an amplifier and a hydrogen sulfide meter. Although she claimed the meter gave false positive readings, the microphone did record the sound of a flatulence.

(This was not aired as part of the original broadcast episode. It has been shown in outtake reels and was eventually broadcast in 2012’s Mailbag Special.)

A fart can be ignited.


Adam had some initial performance anxiety, but finally did release a flatus that could be ignited by a butane lighter. The flammable methane within a regular flatus, despite only making up about 7% of the flatus’ gasses, is still enough send it alight upon release (when it first contacts and mixes with the air, but before it can diffuse altogether).

(This was not aired as part of the original broadcast episode but it eventually aired in MythBusters Top 25 Moments.)