By SHARON KENNEDY WYNNE
Times Staff Writer
Artists don't usually have to ask their obstetrician if it's safe for her unborn baby's developing ears to be too close to C-4 as it explodes, but Kari Byron did.
Artists aren't usually locked in a coffin with scorpions to test whether the smell of fear really exists, but Kari Byron was.
Byron, who will be at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry today for a preview of the MythBusters exhibition, says it's really not too much of a stretch that she landed on cable's most popular science show, "because artists are curious people," she said in a phone interview from her San Francisco home. "I feel like it's natural to be in science."
One of the most popular hosts of the Discovery Channel hit MythBusters studied film and sculpture at San Francisco State University, graduating magna cum laude in May 1998. She traveled the world backpacking, primarily in South Asia. After settling back in San Francisco, she decided that her work as a sculptor could be augmented with a career in special effects and prop making, which took her to an internship at Jamie Hyneman's M5 Industries, where they just happened to be starting up a new science-based reality show.
She has since developed a reputation as a courageous and fun-loving guide to testing the truth behind many myths. Airing on the Discovery Channel since 2003, MythBusters attempts to debunk urban legends by mixing scientific method with gleeful curiosity and ingenuity. And they blow stuff up. A lot. (The Discovery Channel website has a playlist of the shows's 752 detonations so far, "and counting.")
The three-month exhibit, opening Friday and based on the quirky show, gives visitors a chance to try busting or confirming myths for themselves in entertaining experiments.
Can you huff, puff and blow a house in? There's a section where visitors can see if they can build a house out of straw, wood or bricks that will withstand a blast of wind. Does running in the rain get you less wet than walking through it? To test this, visitors walk or run through a tunnel that is dripping with phosphorescent water that glows in the black lights, letting you check who got wetter.
Byron, who has attended the opening of the exhibit at several stops around the country, said the setup is "as close as you are going to get" to being in their workshop.
"I was really shocked at how much it looked like our actual shop," Byron said, "but it's a lot cleaner."