What Are All These MacGyver Equations?

Rhett Allain
6 min readApr 27, 2021
Image: CBS/MacGyver from Episode 401

For the first episode of Season 4 (Fire + Ashes + Legacy = Phoenix). It starts off with all the members of the team from the Phoenix foundation doing their own thing. Riley does computer support, and Bozer is making a movie — but MacGyver has picked up a job as some type of adjunct lecturer at a university.

OK, let’s go ahead and talk about this academic position. Could Angus be a professor? Probably not. For most institutions, a professor would be a tenure-track position (able to earn tenure). This includes the academic ranks of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor (full professor). In all of these cases, you would a terminal degree in your field of study — so that would be a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) for a science course. MacGyver doesn’t have a PhD (remember, he dropped out of MIT).

It’s possible to teach a course with a Master’s Degree or even some graduate credits. The common rule is 15 course hours at the graduate level. MacGyver might have these credits. It’s also possible that some universities make exceptions on a temporary basis for exceptional cases (like MacGyver).

Now we can get on to the equations on the board. I’m going to start from left and work my way right.

Water Erosion and a Floating Crate of Money

Oh, you don’t see water erosion on the board? Wrong. It’s there. This is actually an equation from Season 3 Episode 13 (Wilderness + Training + Survival). In that episode, MacGyver is trying to calculate the location of a crate full of money that was swept away in a flash flood. Here is my original sketch for how you might calculate that.

Photo: Rhett Allain

Boom. There you see it. There is the height of the erosion (h), the depth (x) and the fictional “erosion factor”, r. With the erosion factor, you can get an estimate of the speed and duration of the flash flood (along with the depth).

The next step is to look at the floating crate of cash. This will keep moving along with the flood until the bottom of the crate hits the ground. So, for that you need to know the depth that it floats. Finally, putting this all together I…



Rhett Allain

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