"That's real rhino poop in that jar," MythBusters co-star Kari Byron told a visitor during a preview of the exhibit based on the popular science-based reality show that opens today at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry. "Trust me, you do NOT want to open that jar. It really stinks."
That artifact is one of hundreds of set pieces and odd inventions from the quirky show that gives visitors a chance to bust or confirm myths for themselves in entertaining experiments.
Byron was in town to help MOSI kick off the "explosive exhibition" with a special meet-and-greet with fans and preview of the exhibition that runs through May 8.
This is the traveling exhibition's only stop in Florida and Byron assured fans that it closely resembles the shop, called M5 Industries. The special-effects company in San Francisco is the home base for the television show. "Except this smells a lot better and there are a lot fewer jagged edges for children to get caught on."
In this workshop, visitors can test the "driving blind" myth in an arcade-style game by steering a car while a friend around the corner calls out directions for the unseen course. Or you can run or walk through a rain tunnel, where the water is treated so that it glows under black light, letting you see who has more raindrops on them.
One of the highlights is the crew of professionally trained actors and real-life scientists dubbed STEAMpunks, led by Jeff Easterling, who have a good time setting up the audience to test reaction time and dodge a paint ball gun — while wearing protective gear, of course. The show will go on live about every 20 minutes all day, Easterling said.
Other exhibit highlights include:
• Killer Card Toss: With the right flick of the wrist, you can fling a playing card so fast it can penetrate a dart board. A radar gun tracks your card's speed.
• Change like a Superhero: Phone booths are set up and there's a trunk with capes, gloves, boots and other superhero gear to see if you can change as fast as Superman. ("Kids, there used to be these things called phone booths all over town … .")
• Tablecloth Chaos: A table is set with non-breakable dishes and we found it surprisingly easy to yank off the tablecloth using Newton's first law of motion to find the right angle and speed.
• Cliff Hanger: Hang from a ledge by your fingers. There's an easier version and then a much harder narrow ledge that no one can seem to hang onto longer than a few seconds. They are set at both kid and grownup heights.
• Airplane on a Conveyor Belt: One of the most hotly contested myths of the show, it had to be repeated to silence critics. This allows you to adjust the speed of a conveyor belt that is going in the opposite direction of the model plane that is taking off.
• Green screen: You can buy this photo op for a souvenir. A green screen is set up that puts you in the middle of a MythBusters explosion or hanging from a hot air balloon or several other settings. It's $15 per photo or two for $20.
• Gift shop: You can't have an exhibit without exiting through the gift shop can you? This one is assembled like a cluttered locker room, with shirts, toys, experiments and even books like The Geeks' Guide to World Domination.