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Mythbusters To Test Star Trek’s Gorn Cannon July 9, 2009

by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Science/Technology,TOS , trackback

Finally someone is going to test the Star Trek cannon (that is ‘cannon’ with two n’s). Mythbusters, the Discover Channel show that puts urban legends (and TV & movie magic) to the test, is finally going to take on Star Trek. Specifically they are going to test the feasibility of the cannon that Captain James T. Kirk built to defeat the Gorn in the original series Star Trek episode "Arena"


Gorn Cannon!
In "Arena" Captain Kirk and a Gorn Captain are pulled off their ships by superbeings (the Metrons) and put onto a planet to fight it out old school. Eventually Kirk finds the ingredients for gunpowder (potassium nitrate, sulfur and coal) and uses them to create a makeshift cannon from some kind of bamboo-like plant with diamonds as his projectile. Here is the final scene:

The plausibility of this scene is certainly up for debate and had been submitted to Mythbusters for a test by a fan. Yesterday Grant Imahara, one of the Mythbusters, reported (on his Twitter page), that he was going to discuss the gorn cannon idea at a story meeting and he was watching “Arena” to get ready. He later posted an image from the meeting (see below). Then, after the meeting he reported the good news:

YesssssKirk!!! It’s official. #Gorncannon is a go for next season’s Viewer’s Special. Thanks to all fans 4 your help! :)

Today Imahara tweeted that he ordered a Starfleet uniform (appropriately in science blue), and that the show’s crash test dummy “Buster” will be getting a red shirt.

Grant Imahara pitches Gorn Cannon for Mythbusters
(photo: Grant Imahara)

The Mythbusters are actually experts in make-shift cannons, having created them from a variety of materials over the years. Here are just a couple of examples: the first a cannon made out of a log, and the second is one using non-dairy creamer:


Fore more about Mythbusters, visit You can watch the entire episode of "Arena" online at YouTube.





1. TyanaZai - July 9, 2009

Can’t wait to see that!

2. Syd Hughes - July 9, 2009



3. John Gill - July 9, 2009

I always wondered if that canon Kirk made was actually possible, can’t wait to see the Mythbuster’s take on it!

4. Andrew - July 9, 2009

That is cool! I will watch that but will not be surprised if it is “Busted”.

5. Capt Krunch - July 9, 2009

That’s awesome..for all you cannon freaks..ha ha….
love that show!!!!

6. Matt Wright - July 9, 2009

Nice! This ought to be fun :)

7. AJ - July 9, 2009

Sounds like fun!

8. TREKKIE369 - July 9, 2009

Cannon=like a big gun

Canon=the real Star Trek or ‘fill in the blank’

9. Closettrekker - July 9, 2009

I hope Anthony will tell us when that episode airs (I’ve seen it once or twice, but I’m not a regular viewer).

That is definite TiVo-worthy material.

“Yes… good…good… He knows, Doctor. He has reasoned it out!”

10. TerilynnS - July 9, 2009

I CAN NOT WAIT to see this! Poor Buster!

11. jpolk - July 9, 2009

Am I the only one who is wondering if Kari will be in an Uhura miniskirt and go-go boots?

Also: I would LOVE to see them make a rubber Gorn to shoot the thing at… you know… for realism.

12. Diamond+bamboo+groundup minerals=BOOOOOMMM!!! LOL - July 9, 2009

I bet they say lie and say it aint possible just to prevent Jackass-like amateur attempts to recreate the #Gorncannon in real-life

13. Mel - July 9, 2009

Didn’t he put huge diamonds in the cannon? I am curious how they want to copy that. ;-)

Hopefully we will see the Gorns in the next Star Trek movie. Usually we didn’t see aliens, which are really different looking than humans, in Star Trek movies. Most have just different face features. Gorns in the next movie would be cool. Especially if they look more like the ones in ENT and not like the one in TOS.

14. falcon - July 9, 2009

@11 – um, no … now that you’ve brought it up …

15. Enterprise Fan - July 9, 2009

Good deal! I’ve always wondered whether that cannon scenario was plausible. Looking forward to it!

16. Driver - July 9, 2009

There is no way to weigh or ascertain the exact quantity or quality of elements inserted into the cannon. This would be an educated guess at best. Just don’t look into the barrel when it goes off!

17. Selor Kiith - July 9, 2009

Damnit! And I will probably have to wait months until I can see it here >_<

18. Harry Doddema - July 9, 2009


19. Rastaman - July 9, 2009

My guess is that bamboo is not nearly strong enough to withstand any type of explosion. Then again, who says it was bamboo?

Could have been some incredible alien fiber that just looks like bamboo but is actually stronger than steel!

20. Saavik001 - July 9, 2009

Can we see Kari in the starfleet mini-skirt please? thats my only request! Thanks!

21. WVTreker - July 9, 2009

Kewl, we have to see this!

22. rm10019 - July 9, 2009


23. Capt Mike of the Terran Empire - July 9, 2009

Hey. This will be great. Anthony. You havt to give us the Update for the Show. I like that the Buster the Gorn will be wearing a red shirt and Grant will be in a Blue shirt. Now thats Cannon. or Canon. Lol. Ha Ha!!!.

24. illogical - July 9, 2009

Man, I have been waiting for them to do this on MB for ever!

25. ooba joagfjie - July 9, 2009

awesome, I like to think I helped with this, I requested it many times

26. toddk - July 9, 2009

The gorn didnt respect cannon!!!!

27. Lt. Bailey - July 9, 2009

Maybe they should test the rock Cpt Kirk pushes off the cliff to crush the Gorn….if they can find a foam rubber rock. I have to admit, ever since I was a kid and saw that on TV in the 60’s. I had that in the back of my mind to try this in some survival test but never had the need as I never had any Gorns around when you need them.

28. DavidJ - July 9, 2009


Don’t think it necessarily requires REAL diamonds. They were only used as the projectiles, if I remember right.

And if the bamboo doesn’t hold up, you can always argue that it was super-strong ALIEN bamboo. LOL

29. Crewman Darnell - July 9, 2009

From my own experiences/experiments, back as a kid with a chemistry set, there is one major setback for why this wouldn’t work as depicted in “Arena.”

The ingredients that Kirk found to make the black powder (sulfur, potassium nitrate & coal) were all dry. In order to create a fast-burning mixture, the ingredients need to be fully moistened, then dried, followed by grinding the product into fine powder. Without the water acting as bonding agent, all you have is some non-explosive, coarse dust.

30. CarlG - July 9, 2009

I second the request for Kari in a TOS miniskirt. :D

This is going to be awesome with a capital AWE.

You just know if the first cannon doesn’t work, they’ll make another, bigger one. And then another. And another. No matter what, Buster’s definately going down. HARD. *rubs hands evilly*

31. Crewman Darnell - July 9, 2009

…In any case, this is bound to make an interesting Mythbusters episode.

32. Quatlo - July 9, 2009

Who needs those MB clowns to test this?

Any REAL fan made a Gorn cannon by the spring of 1967.

And we found that beer cans work better than bamboo. Later we found that PVC pipe worked a lot better and potatoes were even better than diamonds for ammo.

On alien planets, beer cans, potatoes, lighter fluid and PVC pipe may be laying around barren areas of rock in piles just like bamboo, potassium nitrate, sulfur, charcoal and giant diamonds. ;-)

33. TNC1701 - July 9, 2009

This is great, I LOVE Mythbusters! I will be watching, for sure. Glad to see them do something Trek!

34. Pontihog - July 9, 2009


You bring back memories. I am suprised we didn’t kill ourselves in the late sixties!


35. sean - July 9, 2009

In light of this announcement, I thought it was time to dust off this old chestnut:

36. Trek Nerd Central - July 9, 2009

The cannonistas will be outraged!

37. magnumpc - July 9, 2009

Next, I’d love to see Mythbusters make a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins.

38. Captain Dunsel - July 9, 2009

#34 “I am suprised we didn’t kill ourselves in the late sixties!”

‘That which does not kill us, makes us stronger’ – Friedrich Nietzsche

39. AJ - July 9, 2009

There’s an funny unhealthy obsession with the Gorn on this website. I mean, one ep in TOS, and one in ENT, and I think the Gorn almost rivals Khan as a candidate for the next film’s antagonist.

Whatever happened to the Mugatu?

40. Dennis Bailey - July 9, 2009

Despite the list on the white board, no way are these guys going to touch off their makeshift cannon with a flint-struck spark and a piece of cloth. They are *very* safety conscious. LOL

41. VulcanNonibird - July 9, 2009

I don’t know about US television / movies but here in germany stations have a gents agreement not to show CORRECTLY how you make weapons or harm yourself – for example if someone on screen cuts his/her wrist its ALWAYS shown the wrong way.

If thats true for 60s TS TV also this cannon should not work as shown in Arena – but maybe will work with some slight modifications.

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43. Author of The Vulcan Neck PInch for Fathers - July 9, 2009

Guys, I couldn’t care less if the “canon Gorn cannon” is busted or proven.

I just think its incredibly cool that Star Trek is THIS HOT again!!!

Can’t wait for the episode!!!

44. 24th Century Rockstar - July 9, 2009

Holy crap yes!!!! XD

Way to go Imahara!

– 24thCRS!

45. DJT - July 9, 2009

“I know! You construct a weapon. Look around, can you form some sort of rudimentary lathe? ” -Guy, GQ

46. jr - July 9, 2009

Now, where are they going to get the diamonds for the canon?

47. Sci-Fi Bri - July 9, 2009

this is totally gonna get busted

48. AdmiralSirJohn - July 9, 2009

I agree, it’ll probably get busted, but I’m sure we’ll all enjoy the process.

Any idea when this episode will air?

49. Spockish - July 10, 2009

I could argue about bamboo or diamonds, and other things. Just remember what was said by the Metrons, they are the creators/providers of all that is to be on the asteroid that Kirk and the Gorn battle on, so the Metrons who are Demi Gods can make matter and let the elements have any property values they desire.

The whole point of the story humanity can think and create, they may be more mobile and quicker than repiles. But it is the thinking brain that gives us the advantage in many things. But it is our emotional choices that let us become benign and not kill that grants us to one day become GOD like. As where we still have a reptilian brain in our heads, it is though our Frontal Lobes that can control the Reptile still in us.

But their is one part of the Reptilian brain that still can over power the Human Brain, and that part is labeled our Sex Drive. Until we can over rule that Humanity may never become extinct. Weapons and stupidity may override that survival factor before our minds learn to control things.

Or until Lesbians learn that we can now convert human stem cells into valid sperm cells, which can now possible make the male an benign factor in human life.

50. steve1 or 2 - July 10, 2009

Were any Gorn harmed in the making of this film?

51. richpit - July 10, 2009

This is cool! I can’t wait to see it. I love Mythbusters.

Yeah, Kari is HOT. Please have her in the Starfleet mini!!

52. Hawaiowa - July 10, 2009

Hilarious! Mythbusters is a great show, and it’s quite in stride with their sense of humor to have a red-shirt involved in the moxy cannon experiment! Can’t wait to see it!

53. earthclanbootstrap - July 10, 2009

Oh, the canon of the cannon…
Or is that the cannon of the canon…

and yes, Kari in uniform would be super…

54. Aldo F. Rodriguez - July 10, 2009

Why does the ‘gorn’ looks like Barney?

That would be good cannon fodder!

55. dmac6806 - July 10, 2009

“Mythbusters” meets “Star Trek?”

I am sooooo there…!

56. Captain Dunsel - July 10, 2009

#49 Spockish “…the Metrons who are Demi Gods can make matter and let the elements have any property values they desire.”

The only problem with that as an explanation is that it fails to account for SPOCK’S commentary as Kirk is assembling the bits and pieces of his mortar/canon. It’s obvious that Spock believes there to be at least be a reasonable expectation of success.

57. frederick von fronkensteen - July 10, 2009

This is reallt untestable since no earthly bamboo is that large and tough. But it will be fun to watch!

But what’s really hard to believe is that Kirk knew the elements to make it happen, but also could identify the minerals by sight, AND on an alien planet where there was no telling what the powders were. Oh, well, I guess he’d tasted them before.

58. Closettrekker - July 10, 2009

#39—-“Whatever happened to the Mugatu?”

He’s drinking beer on Ben Stiller’s couch.

59. Dennis Bailey - July 10, 2009

#41: “I don’t know about US television / movies but here in germany stations have a gents agreement not to show CORRECTLY how you make weapons or harm yourself – for example if someone on screen cuts his/her wrist its ALWAYS shown the wrong way.”

Interesting. No, no such practice or agreement exists in the U.S. – although companies probably would not broadcast detailed instructions about how to *make* many kinds of weapons.

Good luck to the Mythbusters guys getting hold of any diamonds big enough to use as Kirk did. LOL

60. Gul B. - July 10, 2009

Making gunpowder from natural components should be Starfleet Survival Training 101. And the Metrons saw to it that the necessary materials were “just lying around”. (Like scientists placing a stick, a ladder etc. in the cage, if they want to test if the ape is intelligent enough to get the banana.)

But the real mystery is: Why are 23rd century uniforms made of inflammable fabric?? Seems like a safety hazard to me.

Anyway, it’s great to see that Star Trek (even TOS) is again popular enough to cross over into non-SF shows!

61. Trek Nerd Central - July 10, 2009

57. Storytelling. Poetic license. Plus, Kirk had a previous life as a Weatherman. . . or isn’t that canon?

62. Jorg Sacul - July 10, 2009

I’d like to see Kari’s cannon (that’s the plural form, btw.)

Ok, if they’re doing this trick, then how about making the rockslide with the communicators?

63. Praetor Tal - July 10, 2009

#2 Syd

LOL! Best nerd pun of recent weeks.

64. sensor ghost - July 10, 2009

PERFECT. I’ve been hoping they’d do something Star Trek related.

65. FrequencySpike - July 10, 2009

Kari Byron in Uhura’s miniskirt…
Or better yet, Kari Byron painted green in Gaila’s underwear…

Most TiVo-ed episode EVER.

66. Ziz - July 10, 2009

67. Page 2 | /Film - July 10, 2009

[…] Mythbusters will attempt to test Star Trek’s gorn cannon. [trekmovie] […]

68. Odkin - July 10, 2009

Uhhh… last I saw, Kari was extremely preganant and not looking too hot. Best to leave the minisjirt in our imaginations.

But even at her best, she belongs in Maxim and not Mythbusters. These are really clever builders and she’s useless eye candy.

69. AC - July 10, 2009

They need to use a ‘Barney the (stupid purple) Dinosaur’ costume as the target/

70. RocketRay - July 10, 2009

Uhhh… last I saw, Kari was extremely preganant and not looking too hot. Best to leave the minisjirt in our imaginations.

She’s not pregnant anymore. And yeah, she’s probably not looking too hot right now, but neither would you if you had endured 42 hours of labor.

Give her a few months, she’ll be looking as hot as ever for you to ogle from your mom’s basement.

71. DJT - July 10, 2009

Useless? Eye candy is never useless. ;)

72. That Nutty Fanboy - July 11, 2009

11: Two words: Cubic Zirconium.

73. Woulfe - July 11, 2009

Mythbusters meet Star Trek, it had to happen sooner or later….
Remember the steering wheel air bag episode ?
There were a few other Myths where the gang showed their Trek-ness too.
Granted this will be the first time they take on a Trek centric myth.
Buster in a red-shirt, well, duh, he’ll die before the next ad break ;-) very spectacularly at that too. As to how the Mythbusters will dress….
Jamie – Spock ( The logical one of the group )
Adam – Kirk ( The leap before you look of the group )
Grant – Scotty ( The Engineer of the group )
Tori – Washburn ( The head of Security of the group )
Kari – Uhura ( She’s pretty smart folks, she has more then looks going )
Buster – Ensign Ricky ( Aaaawwww man, not again )

74. Smitty™ - July 11, 2009

Try industrial diamonds

75. Jon B - July 11, 2009

This is so cool. Star Trek and Mythbusters together, what can you ask for.

Buster being a red shirt makes sense in so many ways, it’s almost not funny.

76. James Dixon - July 11, 2009

Remember that, unlike the original Fredric Brown story, the entirety of “Arena” was done in their minds. So long as Kirk had the major details right, the petty details of grinding the diamonds for carbon and using water/moisture to mix the materials, it worked in his mind, and worked as a cannon/mortar.

What I want to see is them handle the “shamboo” used as the cannon/mortar tube, which I recall as being ‘heavily infused’ with iron and being stronger than bamboo, if not more brittle.

77. Gorandius1256 - July 11, 2009

OMG! two of my favorite things, Star Trek and Mythbusters ALL IN ONE!!!

78. Steve J. - July 11, 2009

Anyone remember this:

More frightening than any Gorn!

79. Mark - July 11, 2009

I always feel like buying a Jetta after MB.

80. ZombieFrog - July 11, 2009

I freaking cannot wait for this!!!!

81. JT Willis - July 12, 2009

Any chance they could get a Hommer Simpson version of the Gorn cannon built that fired Diamond sized Donuts?

82. James - July 12, 2009

It’ll get busted. Black powder is made with charcoal not coal.

83. Fritzo - July 12, 2009

The cannon would work in principle- I’ve made my own gunpowder and those are the ingredients (for loose powder, you would need water and spirits to make a cake version). However, for it to be used as a cannon he’d need to use some packing to shoot the projectiles, otherwise it would be a very weak shot- certainly not enough to kill a Gorn :)

Also, the amount of power he made in the show would have blown Kirk and the Gorn up. A cup or two would have done the job heheh.

84. Rinko - July 12, 2009

Curions Kirk proclaiming he won’t kill the Gorn with the obsidian knife, but that is what he was trying to do with his cannon. Kill the Gorn. If the cannon would have killed the Gorn outright, what line would Kirk say then?

85. 48WGGT's Billy Bobb - July 12, 2009

Hopefully, for Buster, this new cannon will be…”merciful and quick!”

86. Crewman Darnell - July 13, 2009

83 Fritzo:

Not disputing your own experience with making gunpowder, but from my own experiments way back when, without first using water to mix the dry ingredients, (then allowing for natural drying/curing time) it would never achieve the fast burning quality necessary to generate an explosive force. I’m amazed if you had different results, but then again, I’m no chemist -or James T. Kirk, for that matter. ;-)

On a side note, not trying to give anyone dangerous ideas here, but I quickly learned that barbecue grade charcoal was useless, due to it containing additives to make it burn slow. A few pieces of plain ol’ scrap wood, burned and ground into a fine powder, made for a highly effective ingredient.

87. Crusade2267 - July 13, 2009

Finally, Buster gets to don the shirt he was born to wear!

88. Flu-Bird - July 13, 2009

Now when soon will we be getting a PLASMA WEAPON and a CLOAKING DEVICE?

89. Jeremy - July 15, 2009

Crewman Darnell wrote: “From my own experiences/experiments, back as a kid with a chemistry set, there is one major setback for why this wouldn’t work as depicted in “Arena.”

The ingredients that Kirk found to make the black powder (sulfur, potassium nitrate & coal) were all dry. In order to create a fast-burning mixture, the ingredients need to be fully moistened, then dried, followed by grinding the product into fine powder. Without the water acting as bonding agent, all you have is some non-explosive, coarse dust.”

I would like to add that the ingredients would also have to be mixed in the correct ratio. Kirk didn’t have a balance to weigh them out.

90. C P - July 16, 2009

Does anyone know when this episode will aire?

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92. Kahless - July 29, 2009

93. Mishamonster - August 17, 2009

Why does everyone assume it is bamboo? It could be some other form of tree or plant. Was there ever a time which Kirk states bamboo?
It may look like bamboo, but we will never really know the make of the supposed “cannon”.

If they make an assumption that it is bamboo, then I assume the gun will fail.

94. leonel - October 18, 2009

Anyone have word on when this Mythbuster episode will air??

95. ''/a., - December 18, 2009

dlkfg fgkois wei flk?

96. Nericus - December 30, 2009

I’ve rewatched the clip they provided of Kirk setting off the cannon. To this day I get a laugh out of that episode. However: one thing that episode definitely got right about that cannon is that Kirk himself was knocked on his back by the explosion. However I am of the belief that the bamboo should have just exploded sending bamboo pieces as well as the diamonds everywhere. Both Kirk and the Gorn should have been torn up, IMO.

Yes, Kirk had the gun powder formula right and yes diamonds would make great ammunition, but I just don’t see the cannon actually working with a bamboo tube. I could be wrong, of course. Looking forward to this episode.

97. Robert Sacchi - January 23, 2010

Hope they take into account that gorns were much stronger than humans. Maybe they could make some estimates from Captain Kirks unsuccessful attempts, i.e. the rock slide, on the gorn captain.

In response to Nericus (December 30, 2009) since it was another planet it’s possible what Captain Kirk picked was much stronger than bamboo. Yes, the Mythbusters should have a pig stand in for Captain Kirk with their tests.

I think it’s a great idea for an episode.

98. dp - March 1, 2010

Of course earth bamboo would not contain the pressure of the explosion, but this is alien simulated bamboo

99. The Disinvited - March 2, 2010


It was silicon based bamboo!

100. conlin - November 29, 2010

I want to no if you can doge a shot under water?

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