MacGyver Science: Golden Lancehead + Venom + Pole vault + Blood + Baggage

Rhett Allain
3 min readFeb 8, 2021

I’ll be honest — there’s a lot of biochemistry in this one and I’m just a physicist.

Could Snake Venom Be Used for Cancer Treatment?

This is really the key point in this episode. MacGyver is collecting snake venom (with his DIY jar and plastic membrane) to be used for research. So, is this even legit?

Yes — it’s true that snake venom can be used in medicine. It’s really crazy if you think about it. Something that is normally dangerous can be used to heal.

Pole Vaulting

The key to pole vaulting is to use your horizontal velocity to give you vertical height. At the most basic level, it’s about conservation of energy. Suppose you are running as at 7 m/s. This means that you have kinetic energy, where kinetic energy can be calculated as:

What if you could convert all of this kinetic energy into a change in gravitational potential energy? The change in gravitational potential is defined as:

Oh, where “g” is the local gravitational constant. Setting these two equal and solving for the height (change in y):

So, with a 7 m/s run (15.7 mph)— that would get you up to a height of 2.5 meters (about 8 feet). But how do you make this conversion? That’s where the bendy pole comes in handy. When the pole flexes, it allows the horizontal motion to be redirected to a vertical motion.

Would a PVC pipe work? Maybe. If you get one that has walls that are quite thin, it will be nice and bendy — but it could also break if bent too far. Maybe a thicker pipe could work.

Smoke Detector Snake Repellent

Snakes don’t actually have ears.

However, they can still feel stuff. Snakes have feelings too. If you put a smoke detector on the floor, then this beeping noise will vibrate the floor. The snake…

Rhett Allain

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