The MythBusters The MythBusters

MythBusters Episode 118: Swimming in Syrup

Premier Date: May 6, 2009

It is possible to swim as fast through syrup as through water.


Adam and Jamie began by digging two long trenches and lining them with plastic sheeting to serve as swimming pools. They filled one with water and the other with high-viscosity syrup made from 750 pounds (340 kg) of guar gum and 10,000 US gallons (38,000 L) of water. Adam and Jamie each swam three lengths in the water to establish their average times, then did the same in the syrup. Adam’s time in syrup was 28% slower than in water; Jamie tired quickly and withdrew from further testing. They also performed tests with other syrup formulas with lower viscosity. Adam again swam three lengths in each pool and found that his syrup time was now only 2.8% to 5.4% slower than in water. Next, they invited Olympic gold medalist swimmer Nathan Adrian swim through each substance. Nathan’s times were erratic because his technique was so highly honed for pure water, and his results were thrown out. Based on the results for light and medium syrup, which they considered to be within the margin of error for their testing method, Adam and Jamie declared the myth plausible.

It is possible to blow open a lock by packing it with the gunpowder from six revolver cartridges, fitting an empty cartridge casing to it, and hitting the primer with the butt of a gun.


The Build Team first explored the idea of simply shooting the lock to get it open. They set up a locked steel door and a .38 caliber revolver, and were surprised to find that their first shot damaged the lock sufficiently to let them open the door. Based on the details shown in the episode, they began to test the myth piece by piece: first trying to pull the slugs out of the rounds with their fingers, then trying to set off the case primers by hitting them with the revolver butts. Both of these proved impossible, so they took apart six .38 rounds, collected a total of 30 grains (1.9 g) of smokeless powder from them, and packed it (wrapped in a piece of cloth) into the keyhole of a second door along with a live primer. A firing pin was fitted into a gun butt and swung at the primer. After a few adjustments, including the use of black powder instead of smokeless, the Build Team was able to set off the powder in this manner. However, the door lock remained intact. Finally, they packed the keyhole with 600 grains (39 g) of black powder (equivalent to 120 rounds) and used an electric igniter to set it off. The resulting explosion blew the lock apart, proving the concept feasible, if not the exact circumstances. The team declared the myth busted due to the sheer amount of gunpowder needed, and then proceeded to destroy the entire door with a charge of C-4.

(This myth was based on an episode of MacGyver.)

Davy Crockett could have fired a shot from his musket and split the bullet on the blade of an axe stuck in a tree 40 yards away.


After setting up a target and sticking an axe in it, the Build Team received training from an expert in antique American firearms and began shooting from 40 yards (37 m). Each member took three shots, moving up to 20 yards (18 m) after Tory went first. Although several bullets nicked the blade or handle, none split on it until Tory tried again at the shorter distance. With one bullet hole appearing on either side of the blade, the team declared the myth confirmed and decided that a person could consistently make the 40-yard shot with enough practice.