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Savage, demystified

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"Mythbusters" co-host Adam Savage spoke at a Q&A session on Sunday evening hosted by the Stanford Scientific Magazine. (DANIEL SHAFFER\The Stanford Daily)

Loud applause from a full house of more than 700 Stanford students at Dinkelspiel Auditorium — some of whom donned Star Trooper helmets for the occasion — greeted television’s “Mythbusters” co-host Adam Savage as he stepped onto the stage last night, fire extinguisher in tow, for a stroll down memory lane and a behind-the-scenes look at the show.

In its seventh season, “Mythbusters” has documented more than 180 hours’ worth of separating truth from myth. But, for the special effects extraordinaire and his co-host, Jamie Hyneman, the most rewarding aspect of their job still lies in the process versus the actual discovery.

“We don’t really care about the myths,” Savage said. “No urban legend researcher has ever e-mailed us and thanked us for the groundbreaking work we’ve done.

“For us, the pleasure’s in the building,” he added. “There’s still that honest and pure pleasure of how are we going to do this, how are we going to solve this problem.”

Speaking at Stanford was especially exciting for Savage, he said, because he was able to share the same passion with his audience.

“Knowing Stanford’s emphasis on science [and] what a good rigorous school it is, I know that the crowd is going to be a bright crowd,” he said. “They’re livelier, they watch with a lot more perceivance, they get angrier when we screw things up — that just means that the dialogue’s going to be better.”

The question and answer portion at the end of the event featured students’ personal scientific queries, including whether the legend about the Stanford Band rocking an airplane by running from side to side is actually plausible.

While Savage’s main goal was to give his audience an overview of what it’s actually like to do the show, he did not skip out on sharing his own childhood experiences and his insights on the age-old college question of what do to do after graduation.

Hosting a show like “Mythbusters” allowed Savage to reconcile the diverse mix of interests he developed in his adolescence, he said.

“I spent a lot of time in my 20s thinking that I was wasting too much time and not doing anything,” he said, “but I’m really glad that it took as long as it did. The thing I would go back and say to my 20-year-old self is that: you have plenty of time. I’ll end up being really good at the thing I want to do.”

Though many were inspired by Savage’s story, for the most part, his Stanford audience was more excited about being able to have such an intimate conversation.

“As far as what he was talking about, he talks about having an eclectic group of interest and I guess I resonated with that,” said Michael Gummelt ’11. “[But] it wasn’t so much what he was talking about more just like how he was talking with everybody, how comfortable and causal the whole thing was.”

Hannah King ’13 agreed.

“I liked seeing him in person and getting to know his personality a little,” she said. It seems a lot like it is in the show so that me it cool to know that he’s a genuine type of guy.”

The hour-long event was sponsored by the ASSU Speakers Bureau and Stanford Scientific Magazine.

“Our main mission is to take all the technical and scientific research at Stanford and to make it accessible to people who are not so interested in science,” said Liz Burnstein ’10, editor in chief of Stanford Scientific. “So by making science fun, Adam Savage is a really good way to get people interested in science who might not otherwise be.”