December 07, 2011

The MythBusters Near Disastrous Misfired Cannonball Cover-Up

There was a time when I was a semi-regular viewer of MythBusters. Especially early on, it had some fine segments. But as the series progressed, many of their experiments became more self-referential and often silly, and the team (increasingly "full of themselves" -- one might observe) seemed to be playing fast and loose with the relevant science in many cases. Most of all, the shows seemed to more often than not to have become basically an excuse for blowing things up -- which has a certain appeal in some circumstances, but carries significant risks if anyone messes up. A friend of mine who worked years ago on major demolition projects once noted to me regarding MythBusters, "It's only a matter of time before somebody is likely to get really seriously hurt or killed during the taping of that show."

That day very nearly came yesterday, when a MythBusters cannon misfire sent a cannonball careening into a Dublin, California residential neighborhood, where the projectile plowed through one occupied house, damaged others, and ended up smashing into a parked car that had been occupied only minutes before. (Video)

MythBusters is extremely fortunate that nobody was injured or killed, and that insurance payouts and Discovery Channel moola should be able to render repairs and compensation -- this time.

And one suspects that the authorities who have (up to now) permitted MythBusters to use various facilities for such experiments may be rethinking those decisions.

But what's of particular interest from the Internet standpoint is MythBusters' reaction to the accident. A relevant Tweet from team member Grant Imahara about "working with heavy artillery today" (which was retweeted on the main MythBusters Twitter account) was reportedly quickly deleted from both Twitter timelines.

Of course, the Tweet itself was still preserved by various systems and users, along with referenced "hanging around the cannons" photos that were still available with a bit of digging.

For the supposedly Web-savvy MythBusters to forget one of the basic technology truths of the 21st century -- "The Internet Doesn't Forget!" -- is puzzling indeed.

If the Tweet and photos had been left in full view, they would have been noted to be sure, but there would have been no implication of someone trying to cover-up those postings after the fact by "disappearing" them.

Panic? "CYA"? Something else?

We don't know at this point. But by their actions in this regard, MythBusters has elevated the attempted removal of publicly posted information, into a significant part of the story.

MythBusters lucked out yesterday when their errant experiment -- by sheer chance -- barely missed causing a disaster that money couldn't fix.

Perhaps in a future episode they might wish to consider busting the myth that it's possible to effectively delete widely viewed public Internet postings after a royal screw-up. But we already know what the finale of that experiment would reveal.


Posted by Lauren at December 7, 2011 11:04 AM | Permalink
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