MacGyver Season 4 Episode 2 Science Notes: Red Cell + Quantum + Cold + Committed

Let’s do this.

Metamaterials and Invisible Cloaks

Of course, this is not a MacGyver hack—but it is some science stuff. So, what is a metamaterial? It sounds cool—and it is, but it’s a very broad term. Usually when we say “metamaterial”, we mean some type of engineered structure that’s made of more than one thing.

What about invisible cloaks? The idea here is to use some type of metamaterial to interact with light using a negative index of refraction. Normally, when light interacts with materials there will be an apparent bend in the light ray as it makes a transition between materials. This bend in light is called refraction.

You see refraction all the time. Here’s an example of a pencil in a glass of water.

When light goes into the water, it bends a bit towards a line that’s perpendicular to the surface of the interface. That’s normal. If you had a negative index of refraction then the light would bend PAST this normal line. You don’t normally see that except with special materials—in fact we can really only get this to work with light in the microwave wavelengths (not for visible light).

But what does this have to do with invisibility cloaks? There’s a bunch of stuff to explain here—so, I’m just going to go with a very basic idea. First, in order to see something light has to reflect off that object and then enter your eye. That’s why you can see anything in a room with no light—there’s no reflection.

So, one way to make an object invisible is to bend the light around it. Suppose I have an apple with an invisible cloak around it. If I could trace a light ray around it, it might look like this.

But how do you make light do that? That’s the tough part—the idea is that you can do this with some type of special material (a metamaterial). You might not have that stuff, but you can make something similar with some mirrors. Check this out.

Quantum Computing

Here is my super short description of quantum computing. Current computers use binary numbers. Essentially, these are voltage signals. It’s either some positive voltage (1) or zero voltage (0). From this you can make logic gates and store data and play cat videos on the internet.

A quantum computer uses qubits that can be 1, 0 or a combination of 1 and 0 (that’s the quantum part). OK, now here’s a much better explanation.

Cold Containment Unit

How do you keep cold stuff cold? Really, you just need some type of thermal insulator. Yes, your jacket would work—so would a cooler for your drinks. But for super cold stuff, you need something a little more. One of the most common methods is to use a vacuum. If you have two containers with a space in between them (with no air), then it makes a great insulator.

What about making some cold stuff? It turns out that you can get really cold liquid from a can of compressed air (the kind you use to clean your keyboard).

Check this out.

Picture of an eye for a retinal scan

Can you take a picture of someone’s eye and then use that to fool a retina scan? Probably not, but it might be plausible.

Lojack Emulator

In order to throw some baddies off their track, MacGyver makes a lojack emulator and puts it in a teddy bear. It’s plausible. But what is Lojack? Here—this is good.

Drilling tool

MacGyver needs to drill through some rock. They don’t show the build, but there are plenty of parts around. Really, he would just need some type of electric motor—after that, pretty much any thing could work as a drill bit.


In order to get through a super old tunnel, Mac needs to breath (there’s not really any fresh air there). The answer is a rebreather. The basic idea is to use a chemical carbon dioxide scrubber that pulls the CO2 out of his exhaled air. You just need some tubes and stuff as well as the scrubber. I bet he could find the scrubber stuff near by.

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