509: Induced Current

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Induced Current
The MythBusters need to tackle whether a black hole from the LHC could REALLY destroy the world.
Title text: The MythBusters need to tackle whether a black hole from the LHC could REALLY destroy the world.


This comic is exaggerating the effects of the physics stated. Solar flares eject, among other things, ions, electrons, and radiation. The charged particles reach Earth after a day or two, and in history has knocked the power out in some areas during a large flare. They can marginally affect the magnetic field of the Earth, or dent it, as Cueball says. A voltage occurs in a conductor (the wire) when subjected to a changing magnetic field. However, this change is small and influences only very long conductors, such as telephone lines.

Interestingly, phenomena as described by Cueball have occurred several times in recorded history, with effects quite nearly like those described, most notably the Carrington event of 1859. In 1859, a solar storm produced a series of powerful geomagnetic storms across the world, and many telegraph operators reported electrical phenomena (electric shock from the apparatus, messages sent and received despite disconnect from power sources, and pylons carrying telegraph lines sparking and arcing with current) all across North America. For this to occur in shorter conductors, (e.g., Beret guy's extension cord,) a solar storm would have to be so destructively large as to pose far more danger than just fires. The chances of such a solar event occurring again are not prohibitively small, though quite infrequent, and the last one, of comparative size and strength, was recorded in 2012.

Ironically, Cueball convincing Beret Guy that this would happen may lead to it actually happening within Beret Guy's vicinity; he has repeatedly demonstrated many strange powers, and the laws of physics tend to bend themselves around him in order to fit his perceptions of the universe.

Mythbusters is a show that tests urban legends or myths that viewers submit. They have a classic style of scaling up myths to comical sizes. By starting the myth that a fire would be formed from the large voltage across the wire induced by the Earth's magnetic field, Cueball hopes to see it tested on Mythbusters, and perhaps then scaled up to astronomical proportions. This comic may also reference how Mythbusters was running out of urban legends to test, and has resorted to testing the feasibility of viral videos, movie scenes, proverbs, and the like, plus occasionally making up urban legends.

The title text refers to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful particle collider in the world and the fear of some people of the production of stable microscopic black holes destroying the Earth. Of course, testing something like this would be outside the scope of a show like MythBusters. Additionally, if the myth was confirmed, the planet would be destroyed, and nobody would like the MythBusters anymore.[citation needed] However, that wouldn't be much of a problem, seeing that there would be no one around to like anything.


[Beret Guy, extension cord in hand, approaches Cueball as he works at his computer.]
Beret Guy: Can I plug my extension cord over here?
Cueball: No.
Beret Guy: Why?
Cueball: Solar Flares.
[A diagram is displayed, illustrating the Earth's magnetic field being permanently impacted by a large solar flare (represented by a large arrow).]
[A second diagram is presented, illustrating the Earth's rotation and the resulting impact that the solar flare would have on the earth's magnetic field.]
Cueball: A large solar flare could dent the Earth's magnetic field inwards. The Earth's spin could then induce a strong current in any long conductors, melting them and starting fires. By extending your cord, you could kill us all.
[Stunned, Beret Guy looks down at the cord he carries.]
Beret Guy: Really?
Cueball: Warn your friends.
[Dejected, Beret Guy walks away, cord in tow.]
[Cueball looks up from his computer as he is braced by Megan, a stern look in her face.]
Megan: That was mean.
Cueball: Listen, somebody has to keep Mythbusters in business. Next season should be fun.

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I slightly disagree with the run-through of the "hopes to see it tested on mythbusters, and then scaled up to astronomical proportions" bit. Perhaps refine the first part by ending with something like "...in order to give them enough myths to be worth filming another series". The latter (a reference to the title-text, I assume) should then be dealt with in a separate para by explaining that Mythbusters tests myths experimentally, but that even the basic "use an LHC to get black holes" idea isn't going to be practically replicatable by them, let alone being able to replicate the possibility (or impossibility) of said black holes consuming the Earth. Unless TV budgets and resources are somewhat more capable than I imagine they are... 21:41, 5 June 2013 (UTC)

I think the title text is also referring to the second half of the Mythbusters’ “replicate the circumstances, then duplicate the results” method. Basically, the Mythbusters would see what it would take to destroy the world (and, in the process, actually do so). Maybe they could get help from Sam Hughes 08:14, 20 July 2014 (UTC)

Two interesting historical examples are the solar flare of 1859 in which telegraph wires had enough induced voltage to cause sparks on the telegraph poles, and the geomagnetic storm of 1989, which caused the power grid in Quebec, Canada to fail. The latter demonstrates that in this modern era we are certainly not immune to such "outlandish" scenarios. 01:16, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

Wait. If you tell Beret Guy that doesn't that make it more likely to happen since physics conforms to his simplistic understanding of it around him? 14:18, 13 August 2015 (UTC)

I think that the solar flares may be a reference to the BOFH's "SOLAR FLARES" excuse in the original series. 10:53, 3 October 2016 (UTC)

It didn't work. The Mythbusters are gone :( Lionside (talk) 20:15, 14 December 2016 (UTC)

White Rabbit Project on Netflix has the best of the show back together, at least for I think it was 10 episodes not sure if more are planned. 19:16, 20 July 2017 (UTC)

I have to say, this feels like it may be referencing a certain Bastard Operator From Hell episode

In the third panel, Cueball tells Beret Guy to "warn your friends". If Beret Guy, when he passes this information on to his friends, also tells them to warn everyone they know, or if they feel compelled to spread the word, and thus do accordingly, then it could start a memetic epidemic that would then spread far and wide, like a mind virus. Just saying. 16:48, 30 January 2023 (UTC)