The Origin of “The Only Difference Between Screwing Around and Science Is Writing It Down”

I'm pleased to give credit for this popular phrase from MythBusters to ballistics expert Alex Jason.

For more content become a premium member, subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out our weekly podcast with Adam Savage!

Since I get asked this question a lot, I thought I’d talk about where the “remember kids, the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down” expression came from.

Its origin derives from the 2012 MythBusters episode, Bouncing Bullet. The myth, from a scene in Burn Notice, was whether bullets could skip off the pavement and into a car. We had a devil of a time doing such a thing safely, but with the help of our frequent contributor, ballistics expert Alex Jason, we succeeded.

Courtesy of DCL Courtesy of DCL

The shoot was a tough one, but once we had all of our data, the result was clear. Alex turned to me and said the quote in question. The SECOND he said it, I told him that I was going to say it on camera, and that it would be a big hit of a phrase. He said that was fine with him, so I used it later in the Titanic Survival episode.

Alex thinks it’s hilarious that it’s gone so viral. I’m pleased to give him credit.

Comments (11)

11 thoughts on “The Origin of “The Only Difference Between Screwing Around and Science Is Writing It Down”

  1. I was also always a fan of this effective precursor, from the Exploding Lighters myth (paraphrased a bit):

    You know what the difference is between us and a bunch of teenagers playing with lighters? This blast shield!

  2. Mythbusters is filled with quotes I use all the time, from “Well there’s your problem” to “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” But this quote is on my wall to serve as a reminder to document my calculations.

  3. My favourite is (paraphrased):

    “The difference between us and amateurs is that we call the fire department before the experiment!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

One Day Builds

Adam Savage’s One Day Builds: Knight Lighter!

Adam is well known for his love of armor, so he couldn't res…

Podcast - Adam Savage Project

All Good Things… – The Adam Savage Project – 1/15/…

Adam and Norm have an announcement to make--this will be the final episode of The Adam Savage Project. After 8 years of recording the podcast, we're refocusing our energies on other Tested projects including the bi-weekly livestreams. It's been a wonderful and amazing run--thanks so much for listening!


Tested: Elegoo Mars 2 Pro SLA 3D Printer Review!

We test and review the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro, a $300 mSLA 3D pri…

Podcast - This Is Only a Test

We’re All at CES – This is Only a Test 582 – 1/15/…

With the first virtual CES underway, we discuss the weird and far out products and prototypes that debuted this week. From multi-rotor taxis to RGB LED face masks, CES still manages to be a showcase for novelty tech. We also talk about the surprise Lucasfilm Games announcements, Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event, and Doom 3 for VR!


Adam Savage’s Favorite Tools: Monkey Wrench!

Praise the trusty monkey wrench! In this week's tool tip, Ad…

Show And Tell

Adam Savage’s Miniature Model from Star Wars: Epis…

Adam shares a piece of miniatures modelmaking from his work …


Ask Adam Savage: Were Any Myths Deemed Too Simple …

Tested member Morgan Crisp asks Adam, "Are there any MythBus…


Taking Apart the Samaritan (Real-Time)

In this Premium/Patron exclusive, watch Adam disassemble his…

One Day Builds

Adam Savage’s One Day Builds: Custom Painting Shop…

Today's super quick build is an exercise in tool organizatio…



Our ornaments are more than 50% off and NOT coming back.