This is unfortunately real. There are places where all the old computer crap ends up and people try to get the good stuff out of them. Here is a WIRED story.
I guess a more important issue—why do we throw away so much stuff? Perhaps it’s just because we live in an era of rapid technology changes. This means that computers can become outdated fairly fast. It’s cheaper to just throw stuff away rather than deal with it properly.
Actually, at one point there was a student project that looked into the financial benefit of getting the useful stuff out of old electronic stuff—in particular the gold. How do you get it out and is it worth the money? I think the answer is no—you probably won’t make money by mining electronic stuff for gold.
Take apart a hard drive
This isn’t a hack from the show, but I just have to add a comment. If you have an old hard drive, you should take it apart. It might not be super easy since many of them have those stupid “security screws”—but still you should go for it.
There are two great things you can get out of a hard drive: awesome magnets and great mirrors. The magnets are really what the hard drive is all about—using the magnets to make magnetic fields that write magnetic domains.
There isn’t really a mirror inside the hard drive, but in most cases the hard drive platters (the spinny thing that the data is written too) is super smooth. So smooth that it works as a mirror. Be careful. Most of these platters are metal, but I did find one that was glass-like and shattered when I dropped it. The metal ones make great mirrors though.
Toothbrush lock pick
Let me just say that I have a friend who is a locksmith. After talking to him, it’s very clear that just about every lock can be picked. It’s not even that hard. Really, locks are more of a social contract than actual physical barriers.
If you want to try picking locks, there are plenty of guides online (and there is the classic MIT lock picking guide. There are essentially two parts to lock picking. First, you need to torque the lock cylinder with a torque wrench. Second you need to jiggle the lock pins (inside the lock) up so that they get stuck up. Then you can open the lock.
The toothbrush is just a quick quick to jiggle the pins up to open the lock. I think I’m going to build one of these—you know, for research purposes.
Actually, I’m not sure what device is used here—but it looks like an electric toothbrush. MacGyver takes the toothbrush and connects it to an AC power cord and then jams it in the lock. It explodes.
Of course, it’s not the toothbrush that explodes, it’s the rechargeable battery. Yes, these things can explode. More on this later.
Microwave gun to disable cars
Here is the short version of this hack. MacGyver is in the back of a dump truck with junk in it. They are being chased by bad guys in military trucks. OK, they aren’t bad guys—but they want to stop MacGyver. Really, they are just doing their jobs, right?
OK, so MacGyver finds an old microwave and takes it apart. He gets out the magnetron and then plugs it into the truck DC power supply. This creates directed microwaves that he aims the microwaves at the trucks and they get disabled (with fire).
Is this real? Like most MacGyver hacks (but not all), it’s at least based on something real. Yes, there are microwave guns that can disable a car – https://www.technologyreview.com/s/409039/stopping-cars-with-radiation/ These microwaves then screw up the electronics in the car. I think it works by generating electric currents in the computers that melt tiny wires. Well, it’s real anyway.
What about the microwave gun? Yes, that is also real—I mean, you have one in your microwave. Check out this microwave (real) gun from Allen Pan.
That dude is the real MacGyver.
High frequency sounds and younger humans
Some kids are being held captive by some adults. MacGyver needs to send them a message—but he obviously doesn’t want the bad guys to hear it. So, he hacks a tape record so that it plays a high frequency message. Here is the deal: younger humans can detect sounds at much higher frequencies than adults can. I think it has something to do with the frequency response of the ear-thingy (which probably has a technical name too).
Oh, what about hacking the tape player? I think that it’s possible to record a message and then play it back at a higher frequency. Really, all you need to do is speed up the motor that pulls the magnetic tape over the reader head. I think that would do the trick.
Lithium battery bombs
Here is another hack that is unfortunately true.
If I understand it correctly, it seems like there is some type of internal short in the battery that causes it to heat up. When it gets hot, it gets more internal shorts and heats up even faster. You get some type of runaway reaction and boom. Bomb.
If you want to make tiny grenade like bombs out of these things, good luck. It’s pretty tough to make them explode exactly when you want them to. Oh, don’t do that anyway.