President Obama will be on Mythbusters this evening. He will be asking the show's hosts to once again investigate the possibility of "Archimedes' Death Ray." This is the legend that Archimedes was able to destroy ships at sea by having soldiers reflect enough sunlight off their shields to set the ships on fire. The Mythbusters have investigated this twice before, and each time it was "busted."
Really, it's preposterous, unless by "ships at sea" you mean ships a hundred feet from shore, sitting motionless in absolutely still water, and if by "shields" you mean parabolic mirrors. I found the whole process of testing this myth pretty boring. Both times. The myths that I think work best for testing are the ones that have some degree of believability from the start. I wasn't buying this one.
On the other hand, part of me thinks that they must have come up with some contrived way to make this work, or they wouldn't bother testing it a third time. I doubt President Obama came to them with this problem. They probably already had a plan to retest it and suggested it to him.
I think having the President on the show is a fun idea. It might get kids interested in science. I just wish they would have chosen a better myth.
Archimedes was a genius. I am awestruck by some of the mathematics he was able to do over two thousand years ago. With his towering achievements, it would be a shame to associate him mainly with this mythical "Death Ray."
Update: Busted again.