Saturday, January 17, 2009

Robo-shark vs. Great White shark, what are facts or fiction?

  • Myhtbusters build "Robo-shark"
  • Test eye-gouging as survival method
  • Look at whether chilli can deter sharks

THE whacky scientific masters of TV program Mythbusters have set about their biggest challenge yet - constructing a mechanical, anatomically-correct great white shark.With 90 serrated metal teeth, powered by hydraulics and measuring 5m from tip to tail, the show's resident experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman dubbed the creature Robo-shark.

As shark sightings threaten to close some of Australia's most populated beaches, the Mythbusters crew used Robo-shark to test if it's possible to locate, reach and gouge the eyes of the fierce ocean dweller when under attack.

"(Mythbusters' daredevil) Tory Belleci was able to find the eye and hit the (eye) switch and turn it off but in my opinion if this was a real life situation it would be too late ... you're done," Hyneman said of the 15-second battle.

However, the program, which is airing during Shark Week on the Discovery Channel from January 18, passes the experiment off as plausible, acknowledging Australian spear-fishing champion Rodney Fox's survival of a similar great white shark attack in 1963.

Other controversial theories tested include whether or not dogs swimming in the ocean or using torches during night dives attract more attention.

Popular notions that sharks can be repelled with chilli and magnetism are also trialled. While the torch theory got the thumbs up, no proof was found to support claims that chilli or magnetic fields deter sharks or that frantic paddling and the scent of dogs attract the predators.

The best tips on avoiding becoming shark bait this summer include swimming in a group, not wearing shiny jewellery or brightly coloured clothing, and not entering the water if bleeding.


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