MacGyver Season 4 Episode 9 Science Notes: Code + Artemis + Nuclear + N3mesis

Blow Up a Printer

There was this article about remotely making some printers catch on fire. The company says there is a chance for remote hacking, but they can’t catch on fire. Still, it seems at least plausible. Oh – this obviously isn’t a MacGyver-hack.

Viewing the Power Outage

I just want to point out the scene where they are looking down on the city when the power goes out. All the lights go out except for the streets. Actually, street lights go out also. However, the cars on the road still have headlights. These don’t go out. That’s why you can see the roads.

Nuclear Power Plants and Control Rods

I’m going to give the shortest explanation of nuclear power plants.

So, it sort of starts with water. If you heat up water, you can turn it into steam. This steam can then be used to turn a turbine to generate electricity. This is essentially the same kind of turbine used in a wind generator. This is also the same turbine in a coal burning power plant.

The only difference between nuclear power and fossil fuel power is the method to make steam. Instead of burning fossil fuels, the nuclear power plant uses a nuclear reaction—thus the “nuclear” part of the name.

Here’s the basic idea of a nuclear reaction. Suppose you take some heavy element and break it into pieces. It turns out that the mass of all the pieces is less than the mass of the original element. This lost mass is a form of energy. Yes, you’ve seen this:

E = mc^2

Where c is the speed of light. That’s the energy you get from mass. That’s how a nuclear reactor works.

But wait! What about control rods? Well, a nuclear reaction doesn’t just produce energy—it also creates neutrons. These neutrons hit other elements and cause MORE nuclear reactions. The idea of the control rod is to absorb these neutrons and slow down the reaction. See, that wasn’t so complicated.

Finally, yes. A nuclear generator IS like a high tech tea kettle. That’s right.

Water Ski Jet Pump

The water pumps to the nuclear reactor are shut down. It’s going to overheat. Oh, what about a jet ski? It’s basically a water pump without the hoses.

If you want to use this as a pump, you would probably have to “prime the pump” by adding water to the hoses. Inside the jet ski there is a type of cork screw propeller. If it’s just spinning in the air, nothing would happen (well it would push the air). But if there is water in there, when the water moves it essentially pulls the water behind it along with it (due to a pressure differential).

But this should work.

Hydrogen Gas

Water is made from two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms (H2O). So, how do you get hydrogen by itself? The most common method is with electrolysis—basically just passing an electrical current through water. Wait! You can actually do this yourself with a 9 volt battery.

The other way to make hydrogen is to get the water hot. I mean REALLY hot. No, not boiling hot. More than that. Oh, I should point out that when water boils, that’s not bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen, it’s bubbles of water vapor (water as a gas).

Heating water to split it into hydrogen and oxygen is called thermal decomposition. This happens at a temperature fo 2200 Celsius. Yeah, that’s hot.

Is hydrogen gas explosive? Not by itself. However, when it recombines with oxygen to create water it releases TONS of energy. That’s the problem—but you have to have oxygen. What if you flush all the oxygen out? Then you wouldn’t have an explosion.

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