Bad Universe coming to a Discovery Channel near you

By Phil Plait | July 27, 2010 7:00 am

[I know I already posted this, but the video of the trailer had to be taken down, fixed, and put back up, so I’m reposting to give everyone a chance to actually watch it. Everything works now. Yay! Also, it’s up on reddit (actually twice) and Fark, too.]

Finally, at last, after many months, I can now officially reveal the Sooper Sekrit Project that has kept me so busy over all this time. I think you’re gonna like this… so why not just jump right in to the teaser trailer posted online by a small TV network you may have heard of called THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL!

[evil laugh]

How ’bout that?

I’ve been working with the Discovery Channel on hosting a new TV science show called "Phil Plait’s Bad Universe". It’s a three-part program where I dissect issues in astronomy and science, putting claims to the test. There’s no air date yet, but I’m hoping it’ll be on your TV sets this fall.

As you can see in the trailer, the first episode is about asteroid impacts, and we tackle the issue in a way that I don’t think has been done on TV. I get right into the mix, blowing things up, flying in a jet, going where the action is so that I can participate in experiments with scientists and try to find out what works and what doesn’t. The idea here is not to have some dry, narrated documentary. Instead I will show you what’s going on, take you along, so that you can see how these things work and what we’re doing to investigate these issues.

I’ve been having a tremendous time filming this, flying around the country, seeing things I ordinarily would never get to see. And the beauty is, you can come too!

Eventually I’ll post some pictures I’ve taken on this adventure, and we’ll be posting more video online as well as more information about the show soon. I’d like to thank everyone at Discovery Channel and Morningstar Entertainment for giving me this chance to fulfill a long-standing dream of mine. We’ve worked very hard on this program, and I hope you like it.



Comments (119)

  1. What? You did a TV show? (Well, the book reference was getting pretty old. Time for a new catchphrase which will get old pretty quick, too.)

    Oh, congrats. Any idea when it’ll launch? Will it be between two “viewer favorites” episodes of Mythbusters?

  2. JR


  3. Neil

    Will this be coming to the UK?

  4. Douglas Troy

    Gotta love the Dr. Horrible goggles there Phil. Have you considered applying to the ELE?


  5. Mark

    congrats on the show. however, do you talk about the chances of an asteroid impact hitting us within the next 10, 20, or 100 years? i know it needs to be good television, and i will watch it, but the trailer seems a bit alarmist. it implies that this could happen at any moment, and while true, is extremely remote.

  6. Explosions and doomsday astronomy scenarios? Holy sh*t I’m there! 😀

  7. Hedgie
  8. Hedgie

    Wha? Double post!!

  9. Nemesis

    Is that you crashing into the asteroid in that one part? Crazy. Congrats!

  10. ‘splosions. Heh heh heh. ‘splosions.

    One suggestion tho: could we choose which cities get obliterated by falling rocks? I’m kind of tired of big skyscrapers taking oblique hits. I want to see the Corn Palace take one near vertical. Oh, and I never liked this kid who lived up the street from me. Always making fun of my inability to throw a football without it going all wobbily. Feel free to drop a stone on south 58th ave, Yakima, Washington.

  11. Roland

    Congratulations! I cannot wait to see it.

  12. riki

    Aren’t we ten times more likely to be killed off by a super volcano eruption, than an asteroid impact?

  13. Jamie

    Wow!! That looks fantastic! I hope it airs in Canada the same time it does in the states!

    Just got my Bad Astronomy Necklace….LOVE!

  14. Jamie

    By the way, did you get some assistance from the Mythbusters crew? Looks like some similar experiments…..I can see why you and Adam are such good buddies :)

  15. RobT

    What, was Neil deGrasse Tyson busy or is he too big for something like this? Ha, kidding. Looks quite interesting there, Phil. I hope it gets good ratings, and not just good Discovery Channel ratings, either, good network ratings. I will be sure to check out the show, and the overnights on the site.

    Now, if only we could get Phil, Neil and Michio Kaku together we would have the start of a League Of Superhero Scientists that could protect us from the evils of the world. Ooh, just noticed that the acronym would amount to L.O.S.S. – not good…

  16. Mario

    Awesome! I hope it airs in Spain BEFORE an asteriod decides to come around.

  17. Messier Tidy Upper

    Love the smell of a mass extinction in the morning?! 😉

    I’ve finally seen the trailer (on the original post about it – #237) & I love it! :-)

    Just wish it wasn’t on an American pay-TV channel so poor (literally!) Aussies like me could actually watch it. Maybe one day eventually, ‘ “Phil Plait’s Bad Universe’ will be shown on free to air TV here in Oz – but I’m guessing I’ll be waiting a painfully long time. :-(


    This looks like one awesome, entertaining, superluminously brilliant Bad Astronomy show & like a Jupiter-load of FUN to make! 😀


    PS. Will you at least post your review of the bad science in this show please Phil? You will be watching I take it!? 😉

  18. JerWah

    So no hints on the corrections? I immediately spy several changes.. but I don’t see anything that would have warranted a pull down.. That’s very “un phil” to make a correction and not leave it for everyone to see where you erred. I’m a big fan of your strike throughs.

  19. Harabeck

    Awesome trailer. Can’t wait.

  20. I liked the turning into a giant BadAs*tronomer ready to defeat badas* aliens and hoaxes!

    Can´t wait to see the whole production! :p

  21. mike

    Fabulous to hear, Phil, and congrats. I’m looking forward to it.

    Am I to understand that there are only 3 episodes airing? It is permitted to inquire why not more? Lack of time on your part? Lack of interest (or money) on Discovery’s? Were you forced to capitulate to the demands of a ruthless, doomsday-device-wielding madman (or possibly Mrs. BA)?

  22. ND


    How was the ride on the F16? :)

  23. Off Topic/Need Professional Input – Hey Phil, any thoughts on this :: :: Alternative to the Big Bang.


    Yeah, Phil, when the F16 was doing a roll, what’s with the “Oh god!” exclamation from you? 😛

  25. First: congratulations. This must have been a monumental amount of work, and you deserve your shot at it.

    Love the concept. Sort of like “Mythbusters” with more science and all the blowing-up-of-stuff we love!

    Please tell me you are going to pummel the anti-vaxxers…..

  26. MoonShark

    (asked in the last thread (#240) but that’s probably off the radar now…)

    Can we get better sound quality? This is WAY overcompressed. The whole thing sounds like it was recorded underwater. The big kabooms are all muffled! I checked multiple computers / speakers.

  27. Megan

    Congratulations! Now I have to get cable :)

  28. Wait a second, do you mean to tell us that you got to blow up stuff and managed to keep quiet all this time?

  29. Speaker2a

    Where do I get my Phil Plait action figure???

  30. This is awsome news. I’m really looking forward to seeing this in the UK. My daughter is a bit of a science geek herself and we both loved your book (you wrote a book!) “Death from the Skies”. If this programme is anywhere as good as the book, it’ll be a ratings winner!

  31. CaptTu

    Thanks for the update.

    And I have to agree with gogblog… I’d love to see a multi-part series about Bad Medicine where you take on the anti-vaxxers, the homeopaths, the rest of the alt-medicine issues.

  32. Murff
  33. JohnW

    I can’t believe you managed to weasel your way into a ride in a fighter jet. >:(

    Having said that, if I had a TV show, I would move heaven and earth to finagle a fighter jet ride in there somewheres, I don’t care HOW big a shoehorn I had to use.

  34. Mike

    Looks like quite a lot of fun, but I’m not at all comfortable with calling the universe “a dangerous place.” Everything shown is an extremely remote possibility. While it would suck to have one of those happen, and they are technically dangers, it’s not correct to call it dangerous. No one needs to lose sleep about any of that. Yet, “it might save your life.” No, it won’t.

    My son is Adam Savage’s biggest 5 year old fan, and he’s really into anything space related, but I’ll have to pass on your show with him because it will scare the #@#$ out of him. At least that trailer will.

  35. Evil Eye

    I can’t wait Phil. This is taking Skepticism, science and critical thinking to the mainstream. Thank you.

  36. dave

    so phil is giving coxy a run for his money and from that video he looks total natural behind the cam.

    no luck need phil i am sure it will be a success.

  37. Robert Krendick

    Now you have a reason to go on The Colbert Report! 😀 😀 😀

  38. Tiki Idyll

    @Ken B He said that there wasn’t a date yet for it to be up. I’m sure the BA will let everyone know as soon as he knows.

    @Mark I don’t feel it’s alarmist. I think it’s good entertainment combined with showing what people expect to happen in comparison with what actually happens. Would you rather it was explained in a way that didn’t excite people?

    @JerWah As far as not leaving the original up seeming “un Phil”, that’s because it’s Discovery Channel, not Phil Plait. Their dime. This isn’t something the Bad Astronomer did in his garage and has total control over.

    @mike It was already stated that this is being done to gauge viewer interest in it, and if interest is high enough it may become a full series.

    And @Phil Plait, CONGRATS! This is really exciting. Bugging everyone I know to watch it.

  39. Cheyenne

    The Discovery Channel is fantastic. Getting your own special on there? That’s….damn…impressive…..

    I wonder what the Alexa ratings of your blog will be pre and post airing? I’m guessing those numbers might cause quite a smile (and make the folks at Scienceblogs just a little jealous).

  40. “it just may save your life”
    So how precisely are you going to save us all from a gamma ray burst? Tinfoil hats? It’s tinfoil hats, isn’t it? :-)

    Looks like a brilliant show. looking forward to it enormously.

  41. rick king

    WoW! This is really exciting!

  42. Baka
  43. Robert


    Not tin foil, DUCKs.


  44. Ken

    Wow! Good stuff!
    Can’t wait until this airs!

  45. Christine Pulliam

    Your show looks really fun! I love the animated giant mutant BA. And I’m very jealous that you got a ride in an F-16. :-)

  46. Tribeca Mike

    Love the use of animation, which gives it a different and funner feel from the other effects-laden science shows out there. Have you thought of creating an entire series out of the Giant Phil character? Adult Swim would pick it up in a heartbeat. Best of luck to you!

  47. John Berryman

    They must be desperate for things to air if they are considering putting this on TV.

  48. Jason

    Congratulations to Phil on this project. Love the cartoon laden special effects.

    I’ve got my own means of responding to a potential meteor threat — ride it out!

  49. Holy crap Phil…. That looks AWESOME!!!
    The Discovery channel doesn’t really have any shows like this.
    I predict a great future for this sort of show.

  50. Congratulations on your show, Phil! I will definitely have to watch it when it comes out.

  51. Tribeca Mike

    John Berryman is still distraught over the cancellation of “Living Lohan.”

  52. John Berryman

    At least Lindsey is gentle on the eyes ….

  53. Chris A.

    @John Berryman:
    Does someone need a hug?

  54. RAF

    Why only 3 episodes?…Why not a series??

    Or is this just a “try out” in anticipation of a series??

  55. Josh

    Well now I know there is no god when Dr. Plait has his own television show.

  56. M.K. Oestby

    Congratulations on your own TV-show, Phil. Cant wait to see it!

  57. Hmmm…this gets me thinking…perhaps there could be a show, call it BadMedicine, starring Orac, with the same explosions, etc. How many people would just love to see an exploding GenerationRescue, or a blast leveling the Age of Autism? Imagine Andy Wakefield setting off his first blast…and connecting the wires to the detonator and then running them to the charge….or Jenny getting a newly defined BOOMFANT hair-do…the possibilities are just universal…

  58. Katie

    Congratulations, Phil!

    PLEASE tell me that Discovery is going to put this up for sale on iTunes (I don’t get cable).

  59. Steve

    Holy cow must have in Australia! Like soon aka now.. New myth busters in funking SPACE!!!

  60. JoeSmithCA

    Finally. Yeah Phil! Congratulations!!!!

  61. Ben Walker

    Hey Phil! Congratulations and pretty cool stuff! And, if you need a trusty neuroscience guy as a side-kick to help you save the world, call me. Really, call me. My number is 703…..

  62. Cochise

    Congratulations Phil! This show is definitely going to the top slot on my DVR list.

  63. Merle

    Can’t wait to see it! The trailer looks great, this is right at the top of my to-see list!

  64. Brian H

    I thought they would clean up the audio when they took it down and back, the encoding is just awful to listen to (especially here in my office with headphones) :(

    Otherwise though, congrats to Phil

  65. Alan Traino

    Hello Phil, Nice work! If you need to look underground give me a call……… Show is going to ba a hit!!!

  66. Cherie Miskey

    Phil – congrats!! I can not wait to watch this show. And you haven’t changed a bit from your Goddard days. You might have to debunk the fountain of youth stories, too.

  67. paranoid humanoid

    ’bout time.

    oh, and AWESOME! i’m quite literally AGOG!

  68. For all of you who don’t have cable, don’t live in the U.S., don’t get the Discover Channel, my guess is that each episode will be on the web shortly after it airs, just like they do for Mythbusters and most prime time network shows.

    It looks great, Phil!

  69. Nic

    I finally got to see this trailer!
    Now that looks great Phil, good job!
    Here in the UK I know it will play well – as the great Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Solar System did. Elsewhere? It’ll play well too! ‘cos it’s great! That’s Proper science! And well presented!
    Thanks Dr Phil (where’s the super hero costume?) – defender of science and rationality!

    Mmm, lycra outfit, bit P on it.. Mmm, perhaps not..


    Well done, teaching – which is what you are doing here is so important.


  70. Greg in Austin

    That. Looks. Awesome.

    You should write a book.


  71. Wayne

    Someone missed a great opportunity with that trailer. It should have been “the difference between life on Earth and Death From the Skies” :-)

    Honestly, I can’t wait to see this. I am a huge fan of the show The Universe and Mythbusters. Can’t wait to see you meld the two into one (astronomy and blowing things up in the name of science; what’s not to like?).

  72. You got the science down to a T, now you just need someone who knows how to encode videos for the internet to help you out. The audio is just awful

  73. alexf

    Congrats Phil! Can’t wait to see it!

  74. Neon Sequitur

    Is there going to be a DVD version? The only cable channel I watch is the O.F.F. network.

  75. Leeman

    @61. FreeSpeaker

    It would be quite difficult to make a documentary about a perpex box of blinking lights screaming (respectful) insolence at people. Might be more marketible if Orac had a Bongo van and they turned it into a reality show.

    Good on ya Phil! I hope Discovery picks it up for a full season.

  76. Persnickydietz

    SSP = OMG
    (I think I just peed my pants a little, I’m so thrilled.)
    Too awesomely fantastically cool. Congratulations! I can’t wait, and am telling all of my friends to watch!

  77. Charlie Foxtrot

    Want it now! Now! Yahear? NOW!
    …and then do a xmas special crossover movie length episode with Mythbusters and Brian Cox!
    …and then…and then…
    (hyperventilates and falls over)

  78. Geomaniac

    Sweet!! I hope you get your own comic book since you are now a legitimate super hero. Albeit a largish mutated one.
    Congrats on the show. I hope it runs for years!

  79. Your Name Here

    Damn. I don’t get cable.

  80. ggremlin

    Excellent! But please do not take out New York, Paris, etc.. directly that is so Hollywood.

    Instead take out Antarctica and DROWN THEM OUT, slowly and painfully.

  81. Walkiria

    Heeeeeyyyy!!! I got 2 things to say about this:

    1. I already knew and, strangely, thanks to you. I looked you up in IMDB when you posted the Kevin Bacon post, and saw the show in production. It didn’t take a second for me to realize that THAT was the Secret Project.

    2. I’m SOOOOOOO happy you’re doing it!!!! It’s so funny how I keep telling everybody that I need your book to be done into a Discovery documentary because there were some things I just couldn’t grasp my mind around. And now you’re doing it!!! So you can imagine how psyched I was when I read it in IMDB and later the youtube trailer confirmed it. I couldn’t be more excited.

    It will definitely be AWEsome. I don’t know how I’m going to see it, but somehow I’ll get someone to tape it or whatever (I’m in Mexico hehe).

    Congrats! You deserve it.

  82. Yeebok

    Thanks for reposting the vid Phil. Looks very cool if a little sensationalised – but then again trailers are for exactly that. Just hope it hits Australia via the free to air networks.. but if it has the same style as I see coming from the blog, I am there.

  83. Mike

    Yeah, judging from the trailer not something I’ll eagerly wait to see. But I’ll be happy to be proven wrong if this *is* really a good show with more solid science than “cool” explosions and jumping around all excited.

  84. I’m really curious to know what was “fixed” in the trailer.

  85. Grand Lunar

    “Death From the Skies” meets “Mythbusters”!

    Least, that’s how I see it.

    I hope it doesn’t compete with other programs. And I hope it’s not on when my folks put on their woo-woo shows. That grinds my gears when they put on those shows.

    Anyway, great to see the trailer is up again. Can hardly wait to see this!

  86. ND


    Phil must have let slip that the Moon landings were faked. Makes complete and utter sense. Why else would they take it down so fast? Hmmm??? Yes, they did fake the Moon missions, on the Moon! Makes complete sense!

    Grand Lunar,

    I think DFS + MB sounds like a very good combination.

    Should be better than the Fact or Faked show from SyFy. I’ve watched may two episodes of that show and ended up appreciating Mythbusters so much more.

  87. I think the Comic-Style Phil looks like Gordon Freeman.

  88. Mike

    I can’t wait.

  89. DigitalAxis

    Why am I not surprised Phil’s cartoon alter ego has laser beam eyes?

    Also, I hope that audio warble is fixed before the show airs. It’s really distracting.

  90. John Paradox

    On YouTube, Andromeda’s Wake has posted a new video (subject: Fine Tuning) which includes a ‘shout out’ to BU.
    [it’s about four minutes in]

  91. Joey K

    Cool beans! That gave me the willies! in a good way. Love the comicy animation. Can’t wait Phil.

  92. Perra Dolia

    Can’t wait. Congrats Phil!!

  93. Twinarp

    Woo hoo! And you shoot crinkly lightning bolts from your eyes!

  94. John Leck

    Phil, Congratulations. You’ve been doing good work for years – about time so many more people will hear about “Bad Astronomy” from someone who has been making it understandable for kids and adults for years.

  95. mariana


  96. Ricky

    Just come here to say congratz! Love your work.

  97. Markus

    Very Nice, A Scientific look at what actually can happen, eventually will happen and its likely consequences for any life still going strong on earth at the time of impact. I would like not only to congratulate Phil Plate for the TV opportunity to be able to spread a true scientific message to the masses, but also to the people making it possible. I just hope Producers and creative directors do not destroy it by blowing it out of proportion (If one can blow mass extinction out of proportion that is)…guess you could if one add mutated super intelligent homeopathic lemon juice monsters causing the Impact so that the Illuminati can process all the organic matter of the planet to produce super mutant…oh well, you know what I mean.

    Continue with the Good job ya all

  98. Lorena

    YES PLEASE! I live in Argentina and I’d love to watch on cable 😀

  99. Gordon

    I WANT! seriously though, this is going to be the best thing on television since mythbusters started! Congrats!!!

  100. Plutonian

    I suppose Discovery took a big plunge by just comissioning 3 episodes as a pilot for a series, like they did with Mythbusters back in the day. The format seems to be based on Mythbusters, so it seems like a fair bet. A whole series, like 6 episodes (in the UK) might have been overkill even for Phil, when there’s no guarantee the series will land. I’m looking forward to the series, and I bet it will land new episodes. After all, Phil’s not boring, is he?

    But of course, having to carry all the weight of presenting a science show all alone would be hard even for a great performer like Phil. Mythbusters moved to the 2 team system just because it was easier work for everyone, and they had the presenters in-shop already. Anyway Phil, if you need a co-host, be sure to ask all your craziest (strike that, I mean greatest) friends. The League of Super Scientists sounded like a great idea, if it wasn’t for the bad acronym.

  101. congratulations. cannot wait

  102. The League of Super Scientists should have a team-up with the Worldwide Inventors’ Network.

  103. Michael

    Hell yeah!! That’s goin’ on the TiVo list! I was wondering how long it was gonna take you Phil…

  104. Hope

    Man, this is exciting. I can’t wait to see it, I just wish I knew at least a month, or year, or both that it is intended to be airing!

  105. Rich W

    TiVo Season Pass: check!

  106. Nemo

    Transformed by gamma rays?

    Don’t make Phil angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

  107. Skeptic Ginger

    Looks absolutely great!!!


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