The MythBusters The MythBusters

MythBusters Episode 142: No Pain, No Gain

Premier Date: April 28, 2010

For the following myths involving pain tolerance, all of the test subjects sat in a chair and submersed one hand in an ice bath at 1°C for as long as they could endure.

Women have a higher pain tolerance than men.


Twenty-five members of each gender took part. The women lasted an average of 100.4 seconds in the ice, while the average for the men was 84.3 seconds.

Natural redheads have a lower pain tolerance than people of other hair colors.


Two dozen people of each group (redheads and non-redheads) took part. The average time for the redheads was 132.2 seconds, while that for the non-redheads was 79.1 seconds.

Cursing aloud will allow a person to tolerate more pain than using mild language.


Adam, Jamie, Grant, Tory, and Kari subjected themselves to the ice bath while saying a list of innocuous words to cope with the pain. Jamie and Tory had to disqualify themselves because they lasted the maximum time of 3 minutes (enforced for safety). They were replaced by two staff members. In the second trial, the five subjects were allowed to say a list of curse words, resulting in an average 30% increase in the time that they could keep their hands in the ice.

If the propane tank on a barbecue grill is exposed to fire, it can rupture explosively and propel itself 150 feet (46 m) into the air.


The Build Team constructed a shed to California building code, placed a grill (with a full tank) inside, and stocked it with wood and charcoal to ensure a long and hot fire. When they ignited the shed, the pressure relief valve on the propane tank eventually opened and vented the gas. For all subsequent trials, Grant disabled the valve on every tank. The second trial involved a tank placed directly on a propane-fired burner; this time, the tank exploded and threw shrapnel up to 300 feet (91 m) in all directions. In a third test, the team bored a hole partway through the tank’s base to simulate an old tank that had partially rusted through, and saw it peel itself apart from the bottom up. Reasoning that the tank might need to have some vapor space in order to launch, they repeated the test with a partially filled tank and got it to fly 60 feet (18 m) into the air.

The team declared the myth plausible at this point, then continued working in an attempt to get a higher flight. Tory built a launch guide and set up a 9 mm pistol to fire upward into the base of the tank as it sat on the burner, creating an instant nozzle. With the fire going and the tank about to burst, the team triggered the pistol and the resulting blast sent the tank into a high, spinning trajectory – enough to convince them that a propane tank could become a rocket under the right conditions.