At first glance, it’s a little unsettling to consider the possible ramifications of the President of the United States requesting that two of TV’s best-known science investigators look into the feasibility of constructing a solar-powered superweapon.
But it turns out the request is only in the interest of science – and the making of intriguing television – as Discovery Channel’s ‘Mythbusters’ accepts President Barack Obama’s challenge to re-create the mythical “Solar Ray” attributed to the Greek mathematician and scientist Archimedes (c. 287 BC-c. 212 BC). The episode, titled “President’s Challenge,” airs Wednesday, Dec. 8. In this clip provided by Discovery, the President meets with ‘Myth’ mavens Adam Savage and Jamie Hyndeman at the White House to give them their marching orders. To their surprise, the President tells them he watches ‘Mythbusters’ with daughters Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9.
According to legends that have never been satisfactorily confirmed, Archimedes supposedly designed and constructed an array of mirrors so large, and positioned in such a way, that he was able to direct concentrated sun rays toward enemy ships approaching Syracuse and set them on fire.
The ‘Mythbusters’ scientists have investigated the Archimedes Solar Ray twice already and concluded both times that it is not feasible. However, President Obama apparently believes the legend has still not been “thoroughly tested,” and so he’s asking the show to go back at it.
But fear not: If the weapon turns to be feasible this time, it’s doubtful it would ignite an arms race among the superpowers since this weapon would only be effective against warships made of wood, material that hasn’t been used in the building of naval vessels since the 19th century.