|MythBusters co-host Jamie Hyneman got his start in the special effects industry. (image source: BigSpeak / Jamie Hyneman)|
Jamie Hyneman is pretty much satisfied. After 14 years as the co-host of the hit TV series MythBusters, he says he's left no myths behind. There's no hint of regret or even nostalgia when he talks about his time on the show, which premiered in January 2003 and ended its run in March 2016. Hyneman, who will be delivering a keynote address at Pacific Design & Manufacturing on February 7, talks about the show in the same way any other person might describe a productive day at the office – rewarding, but another chapter closed all the same.
“There's enough episodes of MythBusters that you could watch it for a couple of weeks,” Hyneman said via phone from his workshop in San Francisco – the famed MythBusters workshop that he now calls his own. “After 14 years the material did start to thin out. We figured it was time to throw in the towel.”
The very nature of the show – Hyneman and his co-host Adam Savage tackling all manner of urban legends, curiosities, and sometimes just outright intriguing questions, all via scientific experimentation – meant the MythBusters crew was among the hardest working in the television industry. “We didn't know how things would turn out,” Hyneman says, “For the most part it was legitimate experimentation. We may not have had large sample sizes, but we were actually experimenting and there had to be unpredictable results. We had to build things ourselves on a tight time frame.”
But through all of the crazy experiments Hyneman says the MythBusters team was never attached to the outcome. “We didn't care. We would experiment and present the data. Whether it was true or false was irrelevant. It's what the data said. Over the course of 14 seasons the show took on myths as varied (and dangerous) as whether using a cell phone near a gas pump could cause an explosion (it won't), to whether you can kill someone with a penny dropped from the Empire State Building (you can't), to stunts like determining whether you can survive two identical, simultaneous explosions by standing halfway between them (nope).
“One thing we did discover however is that the scientific process is a pretty good template for storytelling. You start with a hypothesis, you have a body of work in the middle, then you come up with a conclusion.”
Hyneman had several careers before landing on a hit TV show. He was raised in Indiana farm country and holds a degree in Russian from Indiana University, an honorary degree in engineering from the University of Maine, an honorary doctorate of engineering from Villanova University, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Twente in the Netherlands.
He cut his teeth and satiated his interest in engineering by working in the special FX industry. But in the time before starting his own FX company Hyneman worked, among other occupations, as a dive master, wilderness survival expert, boat captain, linguist, animal wrangler,