Attn: Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, hosts of Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel.

Hello. I’m writing in hopes that you can help me–not to bust a myth per se, but to figure out what to do with my six-year-old son now that he’s become addicted to Mythbusters.

“I need some alkaline metals,” he said. “For an experiment.”

Um. What?

“Alkaline metals. You know, like rubidium or potassium. Highly volatile.” He continued eating his pancakes.

I have a feeling that alkaline metals are tightly regulated minerals not packaged in your average starter science set.

“Here you go, Mom,” he said, handing back my iPhone over which he has far more mastery than myself. He made me a shopping list:

I’m pretty sure I can find a junked car, but I’m not sure where to acquire thermite, which my son informs me is “made of explosions.”

“It’s kind of like powdered dynamite, but more powerful,” he tells me. So why does he need both, I wonder?

“To explode the cars,” he says.

Of course.

He’s using Lego’s. “I’m building a cargo robot so that I can haul stuff around. I need some supplies.”

“Won’t the Lego’s work?”  I ask.

“That’s for the small scale experiments,” he says.

Oh. I see.

“Can I blow up the toilet?” he wonders. I can’t tell if he’s asking for permission or just idly pondering aloud, but I know this refers to the alkaline metals, which, when mixed with water make a charmingly concussive “Boom,” though, as I recall, they do not actually break the porcelain of the toilets which gave their lives for Mythbuster science.

Is there a school where he can learn to handle highly explosive material without shattering either our plumbing or himself? Are you offering internships to tiny wannabe Jamie’s and Adam’s? Is there a pilot program that teaches little pyro-technicians the safety skills needed to blow small appliances skyward? (Let’s start with toaster ovens, say, or hand-held mixers. Not the water heater which you blew straight out of a house. More like Modest Destruction 101.)

I would be obliged if you could steer him clear of toxic chemicals, or at least teach him to always wear his OSHA compliant mask. No bug bombs of death, if you please. I’m squeamish about radioactive material too, though you seem to work it into the show every now and then.

His obsessions were a little easier to navigate when he watched the photography show Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe. We just handed him a camera with the assurance we would go to Madagascar someday and take photographs of the endangered lemurs and chameleons dotting the island nation. But now he wants to build a shark cage, sink his own version of the Myth-tanic, and buy a small decommissioned plane upon which he can run “experiments.”

Luckily, he told me recently he’s got “fire-phobia” so it may be a while before his desires win the battle against his greater wisdom. But you planted a seed, Mythbusters. I fear when it germinates we’re going to raise Tory Belleci.

Any recommendations you may have in channeling his nascent Mythbusting gene into something which won’t demand extra insurance would be greatly appreciated.

Yours very truly,

Quenby Moone

P.S. My son just informed me that thermite is a compound made from iron oxide and aluminum powder. This sounds easy to acquire; please tell me that he doesn’t already know how to cook up the very thing that torched the Hindenburg. Please.

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QUENBY MOONE used to be a graphic designer who wrote once in a while. After her father came down with a touch of Stage IV prostate cancer, she became a writer who did graphic design once in a while.

She's written a book called Living in Twilight (no relation to vampires - unless dying of cancer is a part of Edward's story) in which her design skills came in handy, and includes some of her stories featured on The Nervous Breakdown.

42 responses to “Dear Mythbusters,”

  1. Irene Zion says:


    Your son is nothing short of glorious.
    You will enjoy monitoring his moves for the next 12 years, at least.
    I envy you.
    My children are all done blowing things up now.

  2. As someone with two little girls in the house, I love hearing these vignettes of “boy” things. I would love it if one of them got into a show called Mythbusters or wheeled out a phrase like “highly volatile” every now and then. But I suppose I should count my blessings on dolls. Hope someone offers you a helpful response to this letter.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      It’s true–it’s like looking into an alternate universe when you have “all boys” or “all girls.” I just have the one boy, but clearly it’s enough to fill the house with dreams of alkaline metal disasters. How do you channel such imaginative destructive energy into something which, while creative, doesn’t burn the house down?

      Now I know why people become special effects masters. I just don’t know how!

  3. Can he build me a pykrete boat? For Christmas. Thanks!

    My daughter loves Mythbusters. So far, she has not expressed an interest in testing out any of their experiments, though. Thank goodness. I really need my water heater.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Sweet Mercy! We totally could make a pykrete boat! Even better, SUPER pykrete! Granted, our freezer isn’t big enough to build a big boat, but damn if we couldn’t build a model pykrete boat.

      So much cooler than any model building kit.

      I think you’re onto something, C. I will take pictures if we do it; it won’t survive the US mail. Unless…we make our own dry ice!

      • I will accept a pykrete boat in miniature and in pictures. Awesome!

        • Quenby Moone says:

          Because my son is an outrageous complainer about school, and he had the stomach flu (yes, yes, not technically a “flu”) the other day, I told him we would have school at home, hoping I would cure him forever of such a stupid idea. So we did math, reading, writing and then science….what did we do for science? Build a ship about of pykrete.

          Unfortunately, building a boat out of pykrete is way better than whatever he’s doing at school right now, so I think you can say qualitatively that I have been hoisted on my own petard.


  4. Fantastic. I love Mythbusters, too. Great show. I think if I’d seen it at his age I’d probably have been a little too enthralled by it, and may no longer be in possession of such trivial things as eyebrows and fingers.

    Ah well, sounds like your kid might have a future in science.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Fingers are overrated. We have ten; plenty enough to lose a couple doing some fine experiments.

      I don’t know if he has a future in science, but if it’s Mythbusting science, we need to get a jump on safety issues. Kid already has the recipe for thermite in his head for god’s sake! I saw the episode where they made the Hindenburg; I KNOW WHAT IT’S CAPABLE OF!

      • If he has the recipe for thermite, he’s probably got a future in science. Maybe government science. Blowing stuff up, then pretending someone else did it.

        Or maybe not. I was the same way with Jurassic Park when I was a kid, and eventually it turned out that knowing how to make dinosaurs really didn’t fit in with the boring world of professional, real science.

        • Quenby Moone says:

          You hit the nail on the head. This is my concern: the only people who really know how to blow things up are governments or criminals…who are sometimes the same people! I need to get him an in with the people who are neither but still blowing things up.

          Narrow field, I suspect.

          Best to look into Jurassic Park. Maybe they’ll be making REAL dinosaurs by the time he’s cracked the genetic code of mosquitoes in amber.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Miners, Quenby, not to mention demolition experts.

          He might have a lot of fun watching buildings come down — especially the tall stack that came down in the wrong direction a couple of days ago. There got to be a lot of that on youtube.

          Kirk S. wrote a TNB piece in September about blowing things up.

        • Quenby Moone says:

          I will have to search for the blowing-things-up-piece! Thanks!

          Mining. That sounds like dangerous work. Hm. “Demolition expert” sound like someone who got trained by the military to do bad things for governments which I’d like to steer him clear of if possible.

          Maybe I’ll encourage him to watch Iron Chef.


        • Don Mitchell says:

          Probably I wasn’t being clear.

          The “demolition experts” I was referring to are the people who figure out how to bring down buildings that have to be razed. It’s pretty interesting, because the trick is to place explosives in exactly the right spots so that the building doesn’t “blow up,” but instead collapses.

          It’s a serious art, and he might find it really interesting, even — dare I say it, as my mother used to — “educational.”

          And I mistakenly called Kris “Kirk.” Sorry, Kris.


  5. Gloria says:

    “Made of explosions” is one of the best things I’ve ever read. I think our boys should never meet. It would be like the Ghostbusters crossing streams.

    I love your son. I empathize with your life – present and future.

    Please let me know if you get word back from the Mythbusters folks about internships.


    • Quenby Moone says:

      It’s true! The boys would meet, and some sort of universal fabric would tear and we’d all be screwed. We’d have to look out for Sigourney Weaver showing up chanting “Zuuuul” as well.

      On the other hand, we’re local, so really…what could be the harm of a little space-time fracturing? I mean, they couldn’t tear the fabric of being that much, could they?

      Could they?

      Will tell you the moment I hear about internships. I expect Adam on the line any minute.

      • Gloria says:

        I’m pretty sure they could, Quenby. On the other hand, I’m not always fond of the space/time fabric that we currently get to pick from, so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad?

  6. Uche Ogbuji says:

    That boy sounds awesome. We’ll have to get him together with my Osi. Hmmmmm. Maybe not a good idea. Anyhoo, please, for the love of Archimedes, you must do one thing. It will be hard. It’s like the sex talk, but it’s the busted myth buster talk. You need to at some point sit him calmly down in a room where there are no hard objects, no Thermite, no mentos and soda 2-liters and definitely NO R-CANDY!


    Premises all safe?


    Now you get to tell him that the science in Mythbusters…isn’t.

    It’s all fun and all, and nice explosions and ballistics all, and they do bust out some useful science and engineering now and then in discussion segments, but as far as the design of their myth-busting proofs, well, for the most part it’s to the scientific method what Sarah Palin is to Value Theory Philosophy.

    I know it sounds all party pooper-like, but I did it with my son, and now he enjoys the show twice as much. Because he gets to figure out the holes. And that’s solid gold for a young boy.

    Oh, and as lot as you don’t have a lot of Hydrogen gas filling up a balloon somewhere, you’re probably safe from reproducing the Hindenburg disaster 🙂

    • Quenby Moone says:

      See, Uche, this is why you have to move to Portland (see how I worked that in?)! I come from a family of science…no polite way to say this without offending someone…losers.

      I don’t mean “losers” in the way that scientists are losers; I mean that we’re dyed-in-the-wool boneheads who majored in art. All of us, class-A bonafide chuckleheads who don’t have a scientific bone in our body.

      Well, that’s not totally true. The one guy in our family who knows how to “scientific method” isn’t even a blood relative. The rest of us? A bunch of people who, if we had to “Pythagorean theorem” our way out of a paper bag, would suffocate.

      I like shiny things. They explode. They go boom.

      So you can tell me to have the “conversation,” but like Homer Simpson I would sit him down and say, “Now son, what you see on Mythbusters isn’t science. It’s entertainment,” and he would say, all Lisa Simpson-y, “Why?” and I would say, “because Uche told me so.” And he would say, “No, really, why?” And I would go to the fridge and get a beer and say, “Don’t you want to be a writer like Mom?”

      It’s a downward spiral, Uche. And I know that spirals are science-y, but I don’t know why.

      Also, when I read “The Elegant Universe,” I retained that there were possibly eleven dimensions, only three of which I could see. There were strings involved. And chaos.

      My head hurts.

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        Yeah, string theory makes everyone’s head hurt, trust me 🙂 And the teensy crinkly dimensions bit is an especial brain-buster. Once when I was ten or so I spent almost a good day trying to imagine a proper 4-dimensional hypercube from all the friendly geometry I could find on the Tesseract

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesseract (note: neat Wikipedia page. Offers much more ammo than 10-year-old Uche had access to)

        I’ve never tried to pretend I had the head for conceptualizing spatial dimensions beyond 3 after that failure. I can fake it pretty well in maths, though, which is enough to get you an Engineering degree 😉 (talk about head-splitting, there are these lovelies called Jacobean transforms. OY!)

        Your boy sounds smart enough that he’ll start poking the holes in it without any intervention (maybe when he starts on reruns and gets a bit bored), so all is well.

        Seriously, though, since he’s caught the bug, you might as well give him all the ammo you can. My kids love the Basher books, e.g.



        I bet he’ll be an explosive writer *and* make things blow up 😀

        • Quenby Moone says:



          I swear you were writing in English, but I don’t know the dialect.

          The Basher books–awesome! I will look into them. While I myself am a bonafide boob when it comes down to maths and strings and Tesseracts, I strongly support his willingness to bend his brain in new and painful ways.

          It’s the best I got, which, sadly, ain’t much.


  7. Simon Smithson says:


    Blowing shit up is awesome.

    God, I love being a dude.

    • Gloria says:

      Hey! I’m no stranger to blowing things up. And I’m not speaking metaphorically either. My dearest friends, my “crowd,” during the later part of my teenage years were all guys. I’m still paying back a karmic debt for all of the mailboxes I took out with some plumbing chemicals, aluminum foil, and a plastic 2-liter soda bottle. I assure you – – I have never once mentioned to my sons that I know this recipe.

      • Quenby Moone says:

        I will point out that two such clever lads as your own will be able to google you, find this comment and then come to you as though you’d been holding back state secrets and grill you for hours until you cave.

        I’m sorry to break it to you this way, but it had to be done.

        • Gloria says:

          It’s true. They know that I write for the site and that they’re not allowed on here. Yet, they (especially Indigo) love Aaron Dietz’s piece about spiders, which I once read to them when I was telling them that I’m writing for a site now. So, once in a while, Indigo will find it and re-read it. So, you’re probably right.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Truly, I want to blow shit up as much as my son does–I’m just older with a less elastic brain for learnin’ and a remarkable fear of death by explosion.

      Barring that, sign me up for the explosions!

  8. Matt says:

    Best memory from high school chem lab: being given a dime-thin chunk of cesium (which is combustible in H2O) and being allowed by the instructor to toss is into a basin of water. The resulting explosion was so, so sweet.

  9. Well, at my house we’re neck-deep in American Dolls and all the accessories (of which there is a catalog the size of The Decameron) that can be larded upon them. Oh, lord, what I’d give for some interest in thermite.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      I would want to commit seppuku if faced with all the purple-pink-lavender combinations you must deal with. You have my complete sympathy. I will take the thermite and relish it as a good alternative to that.

  10. Aaron Dietz says:

    Perhaps if LEGO bricks will work for the small-scale experiments, A LOT OF LEGO bricks will work for the large-scale. That’s what I’d recommend. Truck-loads of LEGO bricks. Everyone should have them on hand.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Have you seen how much they charge for Lego’s? Jeebus criminy; I think Denmark’s entire economy is based upon the innocuous but addictive clickable brick. If they started using Lego’s as currency instead of the Krone, they’d be more stable than the rest of the Continent! (The Euro has pretty much been sunk anyway, so Denmark might be a good bet no matter what, but still. You get my point.)

      Anyway, as much as I’d love for him to build his full-scale experiments out of Lego’s, I can’t mortgage the house.

      Not until he gets hired by Legoland to build their enormous contraptions.

      • Aaron Dietz says:

        All good points. You can’t even find USED LEGO bricks for a decent price–not that they aren’t worth it. But still, I tend to think of owning a ton of LEGO bricks as sort of a right, instead of a privilege. Whoops. I probably could sell mine and buy a house. Or just make one….

        • Quenby Moone says:

          I hope you start modestly and then do what I always did with Lego’s: GO ECCENTRIC.

          Start with the green base, throw some wheels on there, a couple of doors, maybe some windows with shutters. We’re making the Lego version of the Winnebago, but with STYLE. So the only place to go is UP, once you’ve filled the limited real estate within your Lego platform with a table, a brick bed, a steering wheel and the hot tub.

          First maybe a bowling alley dangling off the back. But since you’re also a traveling archeologist you’re going to need a pyramid, with all the attendant tombs stacked choc-o-block above your simple dormitory/mobile laboratory.

          But you also have a side-line as an organized crime boss, so clearly you’ll have a moonshine still and an above-ground bunker filled with artillery. You have to house your flunkies somewhere, so you’ll need to build a fleet of mobile dormitories OR you can just keep building up. When I was twelve I used to make four-foot tall Winnebago’s; I’m no good at math, but I expect that the real-world Lego Winnebago would be at least at tall as the AT&T building in Seattle, just to give a sense of scale.

          You see where I’m going with this. I expect my Winnebago dreams to be realized as your future house.

        • Aaron Dietz says:


          This is the most fantastic description of how a LEGO masterpiece is created. Hands down.

          I’ll invite you over when the life-size model is complete.

        • Quenby Moone says:

          I expect to hear from you regarding your progress in the next ten or fifteen years. I’m very excited!

      • Greg Olear says:

        Have you been to the Lego website? They have adults talking through how to build various things. It’s very cool. Dominick LOVES the Lego site.

        QB, I will make sure not to let Dominick near Mythbusters. I fear what would happen. Dude loves destroying shit.

        • Quenby Moone says:

          If I know anything about your son, which is to say I know very little but that he’s sharp as a tack, he will simultaneously make you beam with pride and run to get Aflac insurance as soon as he sees these dudes blowing shit up. They truly have the dream job; if I thought I had the chops I would be knocking on their door for a job blowing shit up myself.

          Alas, I live through my son. Also in fear of my son. Sometimes they’re very similar!

  11. angela says:

    ha! your kid is awesome. “cars to blow up.” love it.

  12. […] QUENBY MOONE is a graphic designer and the author of a memoir, Living in Twilight, which does not concern vampires who dazzle like diamonds when sunlight plays upon their skin.  She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, a musical genius, and their son, whose genius needs no qualification. […]

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