Outrageous Experiments

Myth Database – Painting a Room With Explosives

posted: 01/14/17
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See a Clip from the Painting a Room Myth and Scroll Below for the Breakdown

MYTH: A small room can be quickly painted by detonating explosives, as seen in Mr. Bean.


This myth was tested -- and busted -- twice in the original series. In this case, the challenge was to build a rig that houses C4 and that, upon detonation, would provide 360-degree paint coverage to the walls of a 12-foot by 12-foot room.

Contestants were split into three teams: Blue (Brian, Tamara and Jon), Red (Tracy, Martin and Ben) and Green (Jason, Hackett and Allen).

The Blue Team's initial plan was to use a series of mortars to paint the walls, attaching them to a larger container holding a single explosive. In that way, the team could direct where the mortars were shooting the paint. Unsure which nozzle would spread the paint the best, they tested three, using 50 grams of black powder. In the end, the straight tube achieved 70% coverage, while the crimped tube achieved 50% and the trumpet achieved 30%. The team decided on the straight tube for the full scale.

Meanwhile, the Red Team decided on a cube-shaped device, with two steel plates on the top and bottom that would direct the explosive pressure wave through the four side walls. The walls would contain paint in plastic bags, with mesh added to more evenly distribute the paint after the explosive in the cube's center detonated. While their initial tests -- both with and without mesh -- resulted in just 20% coverage of the walls, the team decided to stick with their design, figuring that the full strength of the C-4 would throw an intense enough shockwave to shred the plastic and successfully distribute the paint.

Finally, the Green Team took a long time debating their design, and ended up testing three. Jason's design was a glass box, with a cylinder of glass in the center for the explosive. In the small-scale test, the glass shattered, covering 40% of the walls in paint. Allen's design consisted of sandwiching a cherry bomb between two pieces of steel, focusing the explosion in a doughnut shape. Styrofoam on the outside of the steel would offer no resistance to the blast, and a semicircle of mesh would aerosolize the paint. In that small-scale test, Allen's device produced 60% coverage.

Last up was Hackett with a complicated array of mortars, levers and pistons. A 45-pound weight was attached to a mortar. When the black powder fired, the mortar would lift the arm of the pneumatic cylinder, drawing paint into the chamber. The weight would catch the lever and pull it down, while the cylinder sprays the walls of the room with paint. Except that in the small-scale test, the device flew straight up in the air without distributing any paint at al. The team thus decided to go with Allen's design.

The three teams fine-tuned their designs and built their final contraptions. The final test took place at the the Alameda County Bomb Range, with MythBusters regular Sergeant JD Nelson as the bomb expert and guest judge. The teams had one pound of C4 and 2.5 gallons of paint at their disposal, as well as a 12' x 12' x 8' room divided into 1' x 1' squares to measure surface area.

The Green Team went first with their Beacon of Paint. The device sandwiched styrofoam, paint, and explosive between two steel plates, with mesh to atomize the paint. They achieved 29% coverage of the walls.

Next up was the Red Team. Their final design incorporated paint in sausage casings surrounding a steel structure whose center contained C4. The resulting blast achieved a coverage of 33%, but took down two of the walls, which violated the rules.

Last up was the Blue Team. While both the Green Team and Red Team had 360-degree paint for the 360-degree shockwave, the Blue Team distributed their paint into 36 mortars, with the aim of channeling the pressure wave through the mortars, through the paint, and onto the four walls. But in the end, the Dandelion of Doom succeeded in covering only 24% of the walls.

Because it achieved the highest level of coverage without destroying the room, the Green Team won. For his turnaround from total design disaster, Hackett was named MVP; Ben was eliminated for his communication issues.

But all in all, this myth was busted for the third (or, really, fifth) time.

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