MacGyver Season 1 Episode 6 Hacks

Using an air bag to break through a bullet proof car window

(physics, explosive, car hack, fairly plausible)

So the heroes are stuck in a car in the water. The windows won’t roll down. MacGyver takes an air bag from the car and connects it to the window to blow it out.

Yes, this has a fairly decent chance of working. Air bags are basically explosives — ok, they are. There is surely enough explosive power to crack open a window. However, there is one problem — forces. As the air bag expands, it pushes in all directions. If you don’t have it attached to the window, it will just shoot off. Even in that case there is still a chance it would break the window.

Related: have you seen those crazy videos of people sitting on air bags and then setting them off? Don’t do that.

Covering a bomb.

(explosive, plausible)

Mac puts a bomb in an upside down dumpster and then pins it with a car. That has a good chance of helping with the explosion. Oh, but hot wiring the car isn’t going to be easy. Most cars made after 1997 have those chips in the key — no more hot wiring.

Smart Phone Camera Extender

(electronic, based on real stuff)

MacGyver takes the camera out of a smart phone and attaches it to a blade so that he can look on the other side of a door (by sliding the camera under the door). Let’s be honest — there is nothing technically wrong with this hack except for one thing. There is no way you are going to take apart that phone. Have you tried taking apart one of these things? They are glued together and the camera is usually part of the main motherboard. There is rarely a cable running in there that could be extended.

Diesel fuel dissolving SEMTEX

(chemistry, explosive, plausible)

MacGyver uses diesel fuel to dissolve explosive. Yeah, this has a good shot of working. It wouldn’t dissolve right away though.

DIY Pulley System

(physics, mechanical, real)

In order to yank a bolt out of an explosive, MacGyver makes a pulley thingy. Here is a video with something similar you could build yourself.

The key to a compound pulley is to arrange it such that one string gets pulled further than another string. This means you can pull with a small force over a long distance to get a large force over a short distance (the key to all simple machines).

Here is a blog post that goes over this in more detail.

Originally published at on October 3, 2018.

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

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