In what was either an earnest interest in science or a desperate grasp for a new way to spend Homeland Security money, President Obama made an appearance on Discovery's "MythBusters" last night to ask hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman to re-test a decidedly old-school method of protecting a city: Archimedes' solar ray.
The tale of a Greek scientist who allegedly set an invading army's naval fleet on fire using the sun and mirrors, this myth had been "busted" on the show twice before. But unlike politicians, mythbusters get third chances.
Was this third time -- featuring considerably more manpower -- a charm? Keep reading to find out and see video of the prez's appearance.
The biggest twist to this new attempt at creating a solar death ray was the enlistment of 500 students to stand in as soldiers defending Syracuse. Each volunteer was armed with a double-sided mirror. One side was polished bronze (similar to what would have been used in Archimedes' time), whereas the other was essentially a modern mirror.
The group lined up behind a mesh fence, which helped them aim their reflected solar beams at a small, black sun painted on the mast of a ship a few hundred feet out on the water. In order to set it ablaze, the combined rays needed to hit 410 degrees Fahrenheit.
The first part of the test had the students wielding the polished bronze side to unremarkable results. Next, the mirrors were flipped to display their modern sheen in a final bid to ignite the ship. Sadly even this failed to produce fire, let alone smoke; it only raised the mast's temperature to 280 degrees. The experiment was eventually ceased, much to the hosts' chagrin, but the kids had fun and got sweet T-shirts out of the deal. Not bad for an hour in the sun trying to prove or disprove an age-old query.
The myth was promptly dubbed "busted," and we realized President Obama, who took the news in stride with a polite "nice work" to the duo, just can't catch a break this fall.