Busting the College Myth
Savage and Hyneman spoke to an audience of 927 students, faculty and staff in the Pacific Ballroom in the Student Center last Wednesday night. The talk was moderated by Michael Dennin, professor of physics and astronomy, who lead their talk through the first half of the two-hour discussion before turning the microphone over to the crowd to ask questions of the MythBusters themselves.
“ASUCI invited me to [moderate], and of course it’d be a wonderful thing to do, so I said yes,” Dennin said.
Although he is fond of the show, Dennin maintained that ASUCI chose him for his science breadth courses in which he typically uses the “MythBusters” program as part of the curriculum.
“Getting people excited about science is something I like to do,” Dennin said.
In his opinion, the night went really well, with everyone asking good questions in an obviously packed room.
“It was really fun,” said Wendy Lee, third-year cognitive psychology major. “It was very interesting to hear what they had to say, and especially their video of explosions. The explosions were awesome.”
The video Lee mentioned was a parting gift from Savage and Hyneman that played at the end of their talk and consisted entirely of explosions, a montage of film clips from their seven-year career on the show.
“[Also] it would’ve been cool if they had done an actual [myth busting] thing right there,” Lee said. She said she might see another lecture from the series but it would “really depend on the guest speaker.”
The MythBusters were chosen by student demand, according to Chelsea Sugimoto, Speakers and Debates Commissioner in the office of academic affairs and primary organizer of the event. The ASUCI office of Academic Affairs sent out a school-wide survey regarding future events that asked specifically if students would like to see the MythBusters as well as other artists including comedian Russell Peters. An additional inquiry on the survey revealed that students were willing to pay a small fee in order to see them; additional funding came from ASUCI, specifically from student fees.
“Each year, ASUCI comes together to make a [yearly] budget … and due to the success of ‘Bill Nye’ last year, Speakers and Debates, under the office of Academic Affairs, was given a larger budget than last year. With this increase in budget, we were able to get MythBusters,” Sugimoto said.
According to Sugimoto, there were no real problems getting Savage and Hyneman to come, who were excited about the lecture, despite a contract with Discovery Channel that keeps them very busy.
“The MythBusters were chosen as the result of a coordinated effort by the ASUCI Speakers and Debate commission to reach out to UCI undergraduates about their interests for speaker events,” said Alex Kushner, programs coordinator for ASUCI. “After the great success of last year’s Bill Nye lecture, we knew we were on to something by combining popular science and popular culture for our keynote lecture event.”
“It took a fair amount of maneuvering to squeeze the event into their hectic filming schedule, but Adam and Jamie were awesome about being flexible to make it work,” Kushner said. “They flew out of John Wayne Airport at 6 a.m. the next day so they could be back in San Francisco for a full day of Mythbusting”
The event sold out all 927 seats in a matter of hours, despite charging a nominal fee for tickets. Kushner maintained that the event was a test for ASUCI because they have typically not charged for lecture events.
“The ticket sales didn’t cover most of the costs, but they were crucial for us to make it happen,” Kushner said. “We were excited to see that the UCI community was willing to pay a little bit to get an event that meant a lot to them. Hopefully this format can work for future lecture and concert events.”
Kushner was pleased with how smoothly the event ran.
“We made a lot of UCI students, staff and faculty very happy and I think everything ran about as smoothly as we could hope. Little things always come up, but the team in the ASUCI Academic Affairs office ran the event like pros,” Kushner said.
With two lectures in the bag, Kushner has high hopes for the future of the Speakers and Debate series. Despite the popularity of the pop science focus, Kushner said ASUCI is willing to branch out.
“Some other ideas that have been thrown around include big names in the culinary world, pop culture or maybe a major comedian as well. If students have input they should never be shy to send suggestions to the Academic Affairs Vice President at firstname.lastname@example.org.”