It's official: President Obama will join the intrepid team of the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" series in a Dec. 8 episode -- part of a bid to promote math and science education.
He made the announcement after touring exhibits at the White House Science Fair celebrating the winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions. On hand for the event were Nobel Laureate and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu; Bill Nye, the science guy; National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh; and Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman from "Mythbusters".
"I taped a special guest appearance for their show, although I didn't get to blow anything up," the president told the East Room audience.
The "Mythbusters" episode will retest a "solar ray" legend that says ancient Greek scientist Archimedes gave soldiers polished shields -- acting as mirrors -- to harness the rays of the sun and set fire to an invading Roman fleet, the "Mythbusters" team explained to reporters outside the West Wing. In the episode, which was taped in the White House library, the president tasks the team with determining once and for all whether those shields could have sparked a fire.
"It's amazing to be brought here and to be brought into the fray of getting kids interested in science," Savage said.
The president believes education is key to America's ability to compete in the 21st century global economy, and he has said he wants America lead the world in the proportion of college graduates by 2020. He has often focused on the need to improve math and science education in this country, and today's White House event was part of the administration's efforts to get young people excited about these fields.
It's hard to describe how impressive these young people are, Obama said as he recounted the work the students presented, calling it a "testament to the potential that awaits when we inspire young people to take part in the scientific enterprise."
"We welcome championship sports teams to the White House to celebrate their victories," the president said. "I thought we ought to do the same thing for winners of science fairs and robotic contests and math competitions, because, often, we don't give these victories the attention that they deserve."
He talked about students in Appalachia who worked on water purification and a young self-taught chemist who developed a potential cancer-fighting drug.
"If that doesn't inspire you; if that doesn't make you feel good about America and the possibilities of our young people when they apply themselves to science and math, I don't know what will," he said.
Saying nothing can prepare young people better for success than a strong math and science education, Obama also noted that the most common course of study for S&P 500 CEOs was not business or finance or economics but engineering.