Do the MacGyver Hacks Actually Work?

Really, I’m just answer this question from Twitter.

Honestly, this is what I love about working with the MacGyver people. It’s great that they even care enough to bring in a science consultant (that’s me) to look at the MacGyver hacks.

So, I will start off by saying this. Pretty much all of the hacks are at least based on some real scientific idea. None of them are just magic.

In fact, you could go through all the Mac hacks and rate them on a scale from 0 to 10. 10 would be a hack that is one hundred percent legit—totally real. 0 would be magic. Like I said, there are no zero’s that I can recall.

How about some examples from previous episodes with some reality scores?

  • Score = 10: Break into a hotel room door using a coat hanger. Basically use a metal wire to reach under a hotel door and pull down the handle. Sadly, this is completely real.
  • Score = 9: Use a picture and perspective to triangulate the location of an apartment. This is real, but sort of difficult to calculate. But you could do this.
  • Score = 8: DIY dog whistle. It might take some messing around to get it to work just right, but it’s basically legit.
  • Score = 7: Hot air balloon for you phone. Yes. You can totally make a hot air balloon. It’s not even hard. The problem is the lifting capacity. If you want to a balloon to lift a phone, it’s going to have to be fairly big.
  • Score = 5: Pick a lock with a paper clip. The idea is right, but I really doubt you could use a normal paper clip unless it was a super sucky lock.
  • Score = 4: See through walls with wifi. This is based on a real actual thing—however, it would be pretty tough to set it up with stuff you find laying around.
  • Score = 3: All the explosions. When you mix two or more chemicals together, bad stuff can happen. Often the effect size is smaller in reality and often the time to set these things up is quite long. Don’t make explosions.
  • Score = 2: Disabling a car with some electromagnetic thingy. MacGyver builds some devices to stick under cars to prevent them from starting. Yes, starting a car deals with lots of things working together, so you just have to disrupt one of these things. If you have an electromagnetic oscillation (from the device), it could interfere with the computer or maybe even the spark. It’s a stretch, but it could indeed work.

What about a score of 1 or 0? I’m sure they are out there, but I don’t have any that come to my mind. What about the average score? If I had to guess (apparently I do), I would say a score of 6 would fit pretty well.

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