MacGyver Season 2 Episode 14 Science Notes: Mardi Gras Beads + Chair

Breaking and Entering Through a Window

Don’t break into people’s houses. Oh sure, there are lots of ways to get into someone’s house. Think of a locked door as a social norm. People agree to not go past that locked door (or window)—even though they probably could.

In this case, MacGyver gets in through a window. In some cases, it’s possible to use the friction between your hands and the glass to shake the window up and down. This can slowly force the window lock into the unlocked position.

Detecting Metallic Ink

Here is another one that seems crazy, but it turns out to be not so crazy. MacGyver builds a detector to find some hidden cash. Yes, it’s indeed possible to detect the change in magnetic fields due to metallic ink in US currency.

But you have to be pretty close—and really it would only work to determine how many bills are in a container. However, there’s still a chance this could work.

In this case, MacGyver uses a hall effect sensor along with a speaker to create an audio-based system to search for the money. In the show it works like a metal detector—but it’s not a metal detector since the hall effect probe detects magnetic fields.

I’m not sure I should go over all the details of a hall effect sensor, instead I will just like to one of my WIRED posts on the subject.

But what about the speaker part of this build? Well, it is indeed true that you get a voltage signal out of a hall effect probe. If you run this into an audio amplifier, you probably won’t get any sound because you would need a changing magnetic field. But it seems likely that you could have the hall effect probe voltage control and audio tone.

Anyway, here is my very basic sketch for this detector.

Distraction with Streetcar Sparks

MacGyver grabs a chain and throws it onto the wire that the streetcar runs on. Sparks fly and cause a distraction.

The New Orleans streetcars are electric powered trains. They get power from two lines. There is a line above the car and the other is in the rails (at least I’m fairly sure that’s how it works). So, just touching a wire at the top with a conductor wouldn’t do anything. If you had a chain running from the top wire down to the ground, that would cause a short circuit and probably melt the chain. It would be bad.

Of course there is a way to get this to work. What if MacGyver throws the chain over the power line so that the chain hits both a power line AND a support pole? I imagine there is an insulator keeping the power line isolated from the ground, but getting that chain to make a connection would do the trick.

Infrared Chemical Tracker

MacGyver finds the following stuff:

  • Muriatic acid
  • Selenium powder (they make solar panels with this stuff)
  • Cadmium oxide – the stuff from the inner part of a battery

With this he is making a type of quantum dots.

Oh, I forgot to say something—quantum dot tracking dyes are real.

The idea of the quantum dot is that it is a very small particle that emits a particular frequency of light. If you “excite” it with an ultraviolet laser, it can emit infrared radiation that can be detected with a drone camera. Cool.

So, for MacGyver’s case—they skipped the whole UV light part. But still, this is another great example of something that seems crazy but is in fact based on some real science. Science is crazy.

2 thoughts on “MacGyver Season 2 Episode 14 Science Notes: Mardi Gras Beads + Chair

  1. In the quantum dot tracker, why those substances? What reaction takes place? Does the MacGyver satellite use uv laser? I asked this in forums and they told me “don’t believe everything from MacGyver”…

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