MacGyver Season 1 Episode 10 Science Notes: Pliers

Boosting car speed.

Mac and Jack are trying to get away in a car chase (using a not very fast car). Of course MacGyver is going to give them a speed boost, but the first step is to remove the car hood. MacGyver makes some small explosives using chemicals and soda cans. Boom. No more hood.

The second step is to remove the air filter and pour some hydrogen peroxide into the intake. What would this do? This would give the gasoline more oxygen (from the hydrogen peroxide) to produce more combustion. Would this give a speed boost? Probably—at least a little bit.

Chemistry demo – elephant toothpaste.

This is real. Everyone does this—at least all the cool kids do it. You should be cool.

Liquid nitrogen in water

OK, liquid nitrogen is pretty awesome. It’s the same nitrogen that you find in the air, but in liquid form. That makes it very very cold (-196 C). When you add it to room temperature water, the liquid nitrogen boils. In this boiling process it produces a bunch of water vapor—stuff that looks like a cloud.

This was for a different episode, but here is my introduction to liquid nitrogen.

Remote listening device

MacGyver wants to hear what is going on inside a house. The obvious solution is to build a remote listening device. Here’s how it works.

A laser is aimed at a window such that the laser reflects off the window and back to a solar cell. Because people are inside the house speaking, this causes tiny vibrations in the window. The window vibrations vary the intensity of the reflected laser light. When this reflected laser light hits the solar cell, it causes variations in the voltage. Plugging this solar cell into an amplified speaker produces sound. Yes. This is real.

It’s pretty awesome—and you can do something like this yourself. All you need is an amplified speaker and a solar cell (don’t worry about the laser). Connect the solar cell to the audio input and you can hear variations in different light sources.

My favorite trick is to aim a TV remote at the solar cell. You can hear the variations in the IR light that produce different signals to change channels.

Here is a video.

Stop a car with paper

Yup, a version of the banana up the tail pipe from Beverly Hills Cop (great movie). See—everyone is a version of MacGyver at some point.

In this case, MacGyver sticks some paper up the tail pipe of a car. When the exhaust can’t escape, you can’t get internal combustion. Car stops.

Yaghi Antenna

Yes, you can build an antenna out of just about anything—including band instruments. It helps if they conduct electricity. I think this would work.

Technically it’s possible to find the location of a signal with just one antenna (well at least the direction). Just turn the antenna until you get the maximum signal. A better option is to use 2 or more antennas—but you have to work with what you have.

Over inflate tire

Yup. Boom.

Elephant toothpaste version 2

Bigger is better, right? It’s sort of funny.

Fetch with Ruff Ruffman uses a laser to measure temperature?

I am sorry to point this out, but I can’t help it. My kids watch this show “Fetch with Ruff Ruffman”. It’s mostly an ok kids show. However, there was a problem. In one episode, some kids were in the desert and measuring temperature with (they said it several times and it was even a quiz question at the end) – a LASER. Here is the device they used:

![Images](http://blog.dotphys.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/images.jpg)

This is an infrared thermometer with a LASER aiming system. The laser is only there to help you aim. The temperature is determined by measuring the infrared radiation from the object. You don’t even NEED the laser. Those ear thermometers work the same way, but they don’t have lasers.

I guess when a laser is involved, it just makes it so cool that it must be the most important thing. I am going to put a laser pointer on my computer – that way people can say “look, that computer runs on LASERS.”

Fun things to do with a green laser pointer

I went home for lunch today. While waiting, I saw this lizard. We have many lizards in Louisiana, I like them, really I do. So, this is what I did:

No lizards were harmed in the filming of this video.

I was really surprised. I thought for sure that I had tried this before and nothing happened. Maybe it was because of the white surface the lizard was on. Maybe it was because it was an older and wiser lizard (it was larger than normal). Maybe this is already a well known fact about lizards and laser pointers. Needless to say, this was quite entertaining and completely justifies the cost of my laser pointer.