DIY Epoxy Putty

MacGyver, Riley, and Bozer are on a ship — and that ship is in trouble. It’s sinking. In order to seal some leaks, MacGyver makes some epoxy putty. He uses: olive oil, sand, epoxy resin, and shampoo.

He’s actually trying to make something like this epoxy putty.

Here is a DIY putty (clay) that is similar.

But the bad news — it doesn’t work. Something went wrong.

What Went Wrong?

MacGyver is trying to figure out why the epoxy putty failed. If you’ve watched the show, you know the reason. He’s losing feeling in his hands…

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Disable a Motorcycle

Some dudes are trying to escape with a motorcycle. MacGyver uses a strap with a hook and launches at the motorcycle. The hook grabs onto the chain and then Mac pulls so that the chain pops off the gear.

Oh, sure — this would be pretty hard to accomplish, but it’s at least plausible. Normally these motorcycle chains are fairly difficult to remove, but it’s possible it was loose to begin with.

Henna Oxidation Test

So, there is a henna smudge on a murder victim. As part of the wedding festivities, many people were getting henna on…

Photo: Rhett Allain

I want to explain this cool problem, but I want to sort of give a rough outline of how to get there. It’s useful to see where things start and where they end up.

Point Masses

When you start off in your physics course, you use point masses. Oh, you don’t necessarily call them point masses — but that’s what they are. When you model a block sliding down a plane, it’s a point. When you toss a ball — yup, that’s a point.

Explosive Pipe

Image: CBS/MacGyver

Mac and Riley need to escape from a server room. Bozer finds an old exit that’s covered up by a wall — but MacGyver needs to blow up the wall. He takes two cans of disinfectant and jams them into a short segment of pipe. There’s also two wires in there to provide a spark.

When a voltage is applied to the two wires, it makes a spark and this spark ignites the mixture of spray and air. Boom. This is your basic version of a potato gun — but without the potato.

Since both ends of…

Photo: Rhett Allain

You’ve already had this conversation 1000 times. I know. It happens when you are sitting around with your friends and debating about a battle between Darth Vader and Spider-Man. Don’t worry, we all do this. It’s what makes science fiction and fantasy so much fun.

So, here’s the question. Which superheroes have the most realistic powers? Yes, there are many that are just complete fantasy (but that doesn’t make them less fun). Magic users and shape shifters are pretty difficult to explain with science — maybe that’s why they are so cool. However, some stuff can have a scientific explanation.

Photo: Rhett Allain

I’m continuing to work on explanations for the Randal Munroe book How To — Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems (Penguin Press). Basically, it’s a book that just has a ton of fun answering weird questions with some cool cartoons.

There is a chapter about scoring in an NFL football game. One idea is to just use a horse and literally plow through the opposing team. It’s just like a scene from Lord of the Rings with a horse running through a sea of orcs. Honestly, I can’t remember exactly which movie this was.

So, here’s the stuff from…

Photo: Rhett Allain

In the USA, Pi Day is March 14. Why? Because that’s 3/14 in our odd date format system and the first three digits of Pi are 3.14…Note: I’m going to use Pi instead of π because it’s easier to type.

Enough about that. Let’s calculate some Pi. I’m going to share some of my favorite methods to get a value of this awesome number. OK, I’m actually going to start with a fairly straightforward way to measure Pi — just for comparison with the other methods and so that I can give a definition of Pi.

What is Pi?


I both love and hate Gauss’s Law. But before we get into my relationship with a physics equation, let me show you my original motivation for this post. I see this t-shirt sometimes with a Guass’s Law joke. It looks something like this.

Photo: Rhett Allain. Diagram based on a t-shirt.

The caption for this t-shirt says “No Flux Given”. I think there’s a couple of problems with this t-shirt, but it’s still fairly funny. I’m going to explain the error, but I need to first go over some stuff — in particular: electric flux and Gauss’s Law.

What the Flux?

There are a bunch of great jokes…

DIY Synthetic Diamond

MacGyver wants to make a synthetic diamond — because dirt diamonds are crazy expensive (and they don’t need to be). Seriously, MacGyver wouldn’t want to give someone a dirt-diamond. A synthetic diamond, on the other hand, is much more beautiful. It is a product of science — and that makes it awesome.

So, could you make your own diamond at home? Maybe. Check this out.

Check out MacGyver’s homemade lab:

Image: CBS/MacGyver

The chemical vapor deposition thing works by shooting molecules (or just atoms) at a surface so that they stick — but you have to do this…

Photo: Rhett Allain. Two views of a ball tossed in an accelerating elevator.

There is this great elevator in the Hyatt Regency hotel in New Orleans. First, it’s a fairly high acceleration elevator (some of them are just super weak). Second, it’s got a nice glass window on the side. This means you can see outside as you move up floor. But it also means that people can see outside INTO the elevator.

So, here is the fun physics question:

“What happens when you toss a ball up inside an accelerating elevator?”

I actually have a video of this situation. Check it out.

If you like, you can use video analysis to…

Rhett Allain

Physics faculty, science blogger of all things geek. Technical Consultant for CBS MacGyver and MythBusters. Former WIRED blogger.

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