MacGyver Science: Diamond + Quake + Carbon + Comms + Tower

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 without the air because it would just get in the way. That’s why he has the vacuum system.

Yes, you could use this to build a diamond layer by layer.

Tuned Mass Damper

This is the key to the whole episode — a tuned mass damper (TMD). Murdoc has taken control of a building’s tuned mass damper. It’s basically a giant swinging ball inside of the building. The purpose of this giant ball is to reduce the building’s motion due to earthquakes and wind.

The basic idea is that the ball will swing with a frequency close to the natural frequency of the building (that’s the “tuned” part). But the mass is also damped so that it will dissipate energy (the “damped” part). This video actually shows how it works.

But could you use the TMD for evil? Yes. Suppose you had some type of actuator or motor that could push the giant mass to get it moving. This would in turn cause the building to move since they have the same frequency. Once the building moves, it would shake stuff nearby also. It could be bad.

Diamond and a Lithium Ion Battery

How do you get through a window? MacGyver uses his synthetic diamond to score the glass. Once you scratch the glass, it makes it much easier to break. After that, they put a lithium ion battery on the window and shoot it. When lithium is exposed to air, it gets hot. Super hot. If the battery is still contained, it can explode. Boom. Window open.

Plasma Cutting Torch

Burning propane gets hot enough to cook your hamburger — but it’s not normally hot enough to melt steel. Remember that just about all thing that burn are some type of chemical reaction involving oxygen. So, if you get more oxygen in there, you can get more propane to burn and make a hotter flame. Hot enough to melt steel.

Here you can see both the propane and oxygen tanks in MacGyver’s setup.

Image: CBS/MacGyver

But just having the two gases is not enough. You need them to mix in the most efficient manner. That means you need a laminar flow nozzle. This forces the gases to come out in a non-turbulent way. Here is a great video about laminar flow.

Putting this all together gives a plasma torch. It’s almost like a light saber from Star Wars (at least that’s the comment that Jack would make). Check out this super awesome plasma torch that acts like a light saber.

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

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