That's the question posed on a segment of the Discovery Channel series "MythBusters" that premieres Wednesday and will feature a University of California, Riverside researcher with more than 20 years of experience in emissions and fuels research.
The fall season opening episode, featuring Kent Johnson, an assistant research engineer at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology at the Bourns College of Engineering, will air on the Discovery Channel at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28. It re-runs at 11 p.m. the same night.
The Emmy-nominated "MythBusters" hosted by Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman,Tory Belleci, Kari Byron and Grant Imahara aims to uncover the truth behind myths and legends by mixing scientific method with curiosity and ingenuity to create a signature style of experimentation.
A 2-minute, 6-second preview clip of the segment, called "Savage Skillz," can be viewed at: http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/mythbusters/. Johnson is shown at the beginning of the segment sitting in front of a computer.
Since vehicle engineering has changed so much over the past 30 years, the MythBusters proposed to test three cars and three motorcycles, one each from 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Johnson looked at the pollutant emissions (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitric oxides) resulting from the operation of the vehicles.
Johnson was on the set during three days of filming in June in Oakland. He then spent another two days analyzing the results from the portable emission measurement systems. The results were gathered by Global MRV Clean Air Technologies Division, a Medford, N.Y.-based company that also provided its exclusive emissions measurement technologies for the segment.
"I was there to validate the conclusions made based on the measurements," Johnson said. "Basically, I showed that the process was scientifically sound."
Johnson took part in the segment because he and his colleagues at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology are among the leaders in advancing the science of vehicle emissions testing from the laboratory, to in-use evaluation, to portable emissions measurement systems.
The researchers have measured the pollution profiles of hundreds of models of cars using dozens of fuel formulations, as well as testing of many off-road vehicles, stationary pollution sources, locomotives, port vehicles, harbor craft, and ocean-going vessels.
Called "the best science show on television" "MythBusters" airs at 9 p.m. Wednesdays on Discovery Channel.