Bad Universe sneak peek!

By Phil Plait | August 24, 2010 10:25 am

baduniverse_bikinigaugeIn case you haven’t heard — and c’mon, do you live in some underground cavern with Morlocks and C.H.U.D.S.? — my new TV show "Phil Plait’s Bad Universe" premieres this Sunday night August 29, at 10:00 p.m. on the Discovery Channel (check your local listings; for me it’s on at 8:00).

This first episode is about saving the world from asteroid impacts. In most science TV shows on this topic they’re heavy on the death and destruction, but pretty light on what we can actually do about them. But if you’ve read my book Death from the Skies! you know I’m all about getting off our collective butts and doing something. So in "Bad Universe" we go step-by-step, looking into what can be done to keep an impact from ruining our whole day.

Wanna see a clip? Thanks to Discovery Channel, here’s a sneak peek!

[For a longer teaser of the show, go here.]

Did my stunt double survive? How much destruction did we wreak on the New Mexico desert? And what the frak can we do if we see some nickel-iron bucket o’ death headed our way?

Well, you’ll just have to watch the show and see, won’t you?

And if you think filming this show was fun… it was. And there’s lots more. Tune in and find out!

Oh, and before you go: tomorrow I’ll have another Twitter contest announcement, where I’m giving away lots of cool stuff connected with the show. Stay tuned!

For those who are curious: the picture at the top is me looking through what’s called a Bikini Gauge, named after the nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s (and not the swimsuit, though the latter does provide a lot of fodder for jokes if, like me, you have the sense of humor of a 15-year-old). The gauge measures how much pressure the shock wave from an explosion generates… and we had lots of them for the test. I won’t give away the results, but the measurements we got were not reassuring.


Comments (101)

  1. Aerimus

    Sweetness. Can’t wait…

  2. Holy crap, I can’t wait!

  3. Dan

    Not only a sneak preview of the show, but I finally know how to pronounce “Holy Haleakala,” so that’s pretty sweet, too.

  4. chris j

    THE 29th??? WOOT!

    Actually, I’ve been in a land without an internet connection. Too bad my cell phone worked, and work could call me.

    So this is SOOOOO cool. Really looking forward to it.

  5. Dan


    I love ya brother, but think about my DVR conflicts!

    Mad Men and Big Brother (I do not apologize for the former, but do for the latter) are both on at 7:00 PM PST are on at the same time. I can only record two shows at once.

    Wait a tick! Mad Men repeats for the next few hours. Consider yourself recorded.

    But seriously, going against the best drama on TV and the worst (e.g. best) reality show on TV is a tough slot. Nevertheless, I’ll figure it out.


  6. For those north of border when the &*%^%^ is it going to aired here. But what you could do is send of you biggest stalker fans a copy free. You must have my email at least in your known spammers folders, so send me an email and you can arrange to send me a copy.

  7. PhilB

    Any plans in the Denver/Boulder area for a premier party?

  8. Coda

    Phil, the look on your face at 2:09 is priceless! Can’t wait to see more of the show!

  9. Megan

    Is it going to be on Hulu or on Discovery’s site? I don’t have cable but I really want to watch it.

  10. Damn Discovery Channel Canada!! It’s bad enough that I have to wait weeks and weeks for new Mythbusters, but this is enough to make me nutty! We need some grey-market DVDs sent north PRONTO!

  11. Flip

    I don’t see it on Hulu.

    You old people still use DVRs with cable/satellite streamed programming?

  12. Oh, didn’t see the contest note but I never seem to win any of the contests.

  13. Jim Craig

    I can only say two great words that work great together:


    And this is just the preview!!!

    Thanks, Phil. You make my job so much fun. I get to spend the week telling people to tune into your show.

  14. Eric

    I’ve got a six-year old boy that is going to LOVE your show! (Maybe as much as Mythbusters.) Seems to me a continuing series could be rather successful. Do the Discovery execs read your blog? :)

  15. Patrick

    So, just curious as to if there is a specific reason for why 8 feet under? I hope that gets explained in show at the least, unless I missed that in the video shown!

    however, I am SUPER excited for this show, I already cleared my sunday night for this show.

  16. Mike

    I’m eager to see the show. :)

  17. Richard

    So the Mythbusters wouldn’t let you borrow Buster?

  18. Charlie Young

    THAT…WAS…AWESOME! Got it ready to record on Tivo. Should also be available on YouTube shortly after broadcast. Not by me, of course.

  19. Doc

    Phil, you are so cool your electrons don’t move!

  20. Daniel J. Andrews

    By Dan@2

    Not only a sneak preview of the show, but I finally know how to pronounce “Holy Haleakala,” so that’s pretty sweet, too.

    My exact thought too! Great minds and all that? Or is it fools seldom differ? :)

    Still not happy about not getting your show in Canada. grr.

  21. waaahhhh…..waaahhhh…I WANT A TRUCKLOAD OF AMMONIUM NITRATE, TOO!!!

    Imagine the fishing possibilities…

  22. Daniel

    I’m just waiting, here from Brazil! Awsome!

  23. Count me among the Canadians that searched the listings in futility…any ideas when this will be airing in Canada?

  24. Agustina Iansilevich

    Is there any way to watch the show from Argentina?
    BTW: Explosions = Awesome

  25. CaptTu

    Well of course your stunt double didn’t survive… You left him there without his hard hat.

  26. Linus

    Now to wait till they show it on Discovery Denmark (if they ever will. I have my doubts)

  27. EdF

    WooHoo! congrats, looking forward to it.

  28. Phil, your unsuppressed nerd joy fills my geek heart with glee. Can’t wait to see the show.

  29. Whoa, that blowed up real good.

  30. I’m blaming you, Phil, for my decreased productivity Monday morning on account of my staying up ’til 11pm on a Sunday night…

    …but damn* if I don’t believe** it’ll be worth it.

    (* – generic term not used here to indicate the existence of an afterlife)
    (** – supposition based on available facts, such as “explosions are cool” and “Phil rocks”, to be backed up by further evidence and research on Sunday night)

  31. Chris

    Ohhh, I want to try that at home (note to FBI, I’m only kidding)
    @ 1:40, did you lock the camera guy outside the bunker?

  32. Menyambal

    Phil, that was beautiful.

    Ten times I watched the bit from ‘you can push the button’ to ‘look what I just did’.

  33. Cindy

    Didn’t they use similar pressure gauge in Mythbusters for the explosions underwater?

    Glad it’s going to be on Sunday nights when I can watch it. Will it be on the High-Def Discovery?

  34. Zucchi

    Sweet! I guess a boy never forgets his first explosion!

  35. Chris Merchant

    Phil, will this be streaming online anywhere? If not, tell Discovery that if they bring the show online we’ll all watch each commercial twice to make it worth their while.

    Oh, and the show looks very cool, btw. I just hope I’ll be able to watch it!

  36. Greg Schaible

    Can’t wait to watch the show, Mr. Plait! I’ve been a long-time reader of yours, and a television show is more than in order! The fact that your readers can communicate with you via this comment box is wonderful!

  37. Mike Sperry

    Woo! This looks sooo good. I can hardly wait for the show to premiere!

  38. Grand Lunar

    A few thousand pounds of explosives- several thousand dollars.

    Truck used to carry explosives- a few tens of thousands of dollars

    Backhoe- maybe a hundred thousand dollars

    Phil’s expression after setting off the explosives- PRICELESS

    Can’t wait to see this! My, how the time flies.
    Better set a remainder.

  39. If it’s not available for streaming on the internet, it was never broadcast, as far as I’m concerned.

    But I agree with the above commenters: now I know how to pronounce Haleakala.

  40. So very cool, Phil! I look forward to it and hope they decide to buy more episodes.

    Just off hand, do you know when the other two will show?

  41. Dylan

    where did you shoot this in new mexico? I also second (or 75th) the requests for a possible stream link. I don’t have cable…

  42. Chris Merchant

    I’d like to some Bad Universe swag that says “Holy Haleakala” on it. I think this is Phil’s very own “ay carumba.”

  43. peyote

    Fantastic! Can’t wait to see it on the top list at The Pirate Bay 😉 That would be a real measure of success – gazillions of people downloading to watch.
    Embrace technology! Go bit torrent!
    (hoping the copyright fascists let this go thru)

  44. Dave


    Looks like you’re channeling your inner Mythbuster! Congrats!

    The DR is already set and I can’t wait (although I may have to because I will be out of town on Sunday and might not have access to Discovery).

  45. Damon

    I’m psyched for this program, and I’m really happy for you Phil! How awesome is it to get to use your profession for a TELEVISION GIG?!

  46. WJM

    Phil Go Bang Bang!

  47. Jearley

    Congratulations, Phil!
    Now, when will those of us with no TV be able to see it? Like on Hulu or such?

  48. Price of fertilizer? No idea!

    Price of lots of equipment, cameras and crew? Probably a lot!

    The look on Phil’s face when the explosives detonate? PRICELESS!

  49. John Baxter

    Phil, Adam Savage will be jealous. 😉

    Dan, Haleakala is easy. It’s pronounced just like it sounds.

  50. JoeSmithCA

    wow wow wow wow wow wow wow wow wow wow wow wow

  51. Jeff

    I can’t wait. Extra credit for my students that watch.

    I still hope production videos will be available, like Bill Nye videos.


  52. Gary Ansorge

    Hulu USUALLY broadcasts shows the day after they’re aired, if they’re going to air them at all. Depends on their contracts with the producers, I guess.

    He le a ka la. Just pronounce each vowel,ie, have a vowel movement(Thank you, Robin Williams).

    Gary 7

  53. Kim

    Bad Universe swag! Phil, you need to set up a Cafe Press or Zazzle store. Or else one of your minions, er fans, will do it for you. Hmmm, where is my fabric paint……

  54. Your Name Here

    Now I’m REALLY regretting not having cable.

  55. “How much destruction did we wreak on the New Mexico desert?”
    What desert?

  56. Kimpatsu

    That’s it, Phil. You’ve convinced me. I’m leaving the neighbourhood; preferably for Mars.

  57. dan

    Does anyone know if this will be airing in Canada, or is this only in the U.S.A for now.

  58. cmflyer

    @52 Jeff
    “I can’t wait. Extra credit for my students that watch.”

    Heck, my students ARE going to watch, in my classroom! And I’m really liking Through the Wormhole too. That’s it: lab, video, lab, video, lab, video…

  59. Trucker Doug

    Now that was a good explosion. How good? A second after Phil pushed the button on screen, two car alarms went off outside my apartment.

    Can’t wait for the show!

  60. Marley

    One more vote for Hulu for the cable-deprived!

    (Funny, I’ve never felt deprived until now.)

  61. I hope those weren’t new pants you were wearing.

  62. Pete

    Phil, you need to name your stunt double – I suggest “Phil-In”

    The show looks to be a lot of fun!

    re how to pronounce Haleakala – Hawaiian is easy – every syllable is pronounced, and syllables are 1-3 letters max. For example, there is the Like Like Highway – “lick-ee lick-ee”

    Or the triggerfish – Humuhumunukunukuapua’a

  63. Rory Kent

    “Not only a sneak preview of the show, but I finally know how to pronounce “Holy Haleakala,” so that’s pretty sweet, too.” – Dan, #3

    ^^ This 😛

  64. Graham

    Is it going to be available for non-cable subcribers, e.g. via iTunes?

  65. Hibryd

    Little known fact: Every new Discovery show requires at least one explosion per episode.

  66. Michelle R

    This is gonna be so sweet!
    …now, I hope Discovery Canada will air it.

  67. Harry

    But but but….meteorites don’t impact UNDERNEATH the ground! :(
    And we need to pull in Halley’s comet for a control test! With a bad-ass-gravity-pump.

  68. Filipe

    Looking forward to the show, but… “What physicists call kinetic energy” ?

    That line worries me

  69. Greg in Austin

    You wrote a book?

    You did a TV show?

    You should tell us about these things!


  70. ggremlin

    Heck of a way to break out the bikinis!

    Now can you find a rocket sled with a 20 degree downslope to show what an object traveling at 700mph will do?

  71. Oh boy, is Discovery now all about explosions? I was hoping for a new “Cosmos” :)

    And for all above me waiting to get it in Brazil, Canada, Argentina or Denmark – stop acting naiive, it will be on the web as a handy torrent within hours. I doubt I’ll see it here in Israel any other way anytime soon… 😉

  72. Holy Smeg! You destroyed the Cleft! Now how will we get to D’ni?!? 😉

    I shall be watcing. For me, it’s on right after Leverage, so that works nicely.

  73. bobbicus

    There’s no mention of it on Discovery’s UK website. Guess us englishers will have watch via the magic of the interwebs.

  74. DrFlimmer


    sorry to break all the enthusiasm, but someone had to say it 😉

    Bye, then… 😉

  75. Praedico

    So that’s how you pronounce Haleakala!
    Loved your expression when the explosion went off :)

    Any idea when/if this will air in the UK? We let you guys watch Doctor Who like a week after it first airs here, only fair you send us this without a wait of months!

  76. michael

    I don’t suppose this will actually be shown in France anytime soon :-/

  77. Tim McCormley

    Damnit Phil!

    I just reduced my cable subscriptions (in order to save some time and money), so I don’t get “The Discovery Channel” anymore. And now you have to go and do this….

    Get thee behind me, Satan!


    P.S. Congratulations, anyway. The show looks fantastic!

  78. @Chris (31)

    You should see how many cameramen Discovery goes through in a year. You’re likely to lose one or two in a single taping. Incidentally, that’s why they like “Dirty Jobs” so much. In all these years, Mike hasn’t had a single fatality.

    But I jest. Seriously though, being a cameraman for Discovery is dangerous. However, in this case, the shot is set up. They either had the person going in shut and lock the door and then re-open the door for the cameraman, or this wasn’t the last person to really go inside. It’s suggestive, and maybe a bit sneaky, but it tells the story, and you have to remember that television is all about the story, even on Discovery.

  79. Phil K

    This looks GREAT! I agree, Phil’s expression when he throws the switch could not be something they rehearsed ahead of time.

  80. Phil K

    You know, it’s great to see mainstream science and astronomy getting popularized again. For a long time it was pretty much just Carl “Billions and Billions” Sagan. He left a big gap when he died, and for a long time there was no one like him to answer the usual daily torrent of pseudoscience.

    Now we’ve got TWO well-known popularizers of astronomy: Neil DeGrasse-Tyson and Phil Plait. They should form a double act — Neil can muse eloquently about the grand size and scale of the universe, and Phil can blow stuff up.

    Hey, all those explosions are certainly working for the Mythbusters!

  81. gar

    Phil make big boom.

  82. Owen

    Ooh! My daughters will *love* this! Maybe we can do this after watching “When Worlds Collide” and discussing astronomy!

    Thank you again, Phil. Your hard work, intelligence, and humor are giving me great ideas for things to do with my family!

  83. Matt

    And when will us inferrior folk over t’other side of the pond get a chance to see it?

  84. Noel

    AAAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!! Canadian Discovery Channel is having a Mythbusters marathon at that time: from 7PM Sunday to 4AM monday morning. I don’t see Bad Universe anywhere in the listings at

  85. Okay… How do I get the Little Anthropologists into bed and sleeping by 8PM?! Awesome, and ping:

  86. Congratulations on the show! Can’t wait to see it

  87. Tarou

    I, too, would love this to be on Hulu and/or Discovery’s site streaming. However, they have typically been bad about that with Mythbusters, so I doubt this will make it online.

    I would love to be wrong, though.

  88. Peter Downey

    Great program! I love it! It is an excellent outreach program to the general public.

    I’d just ask that you drop the “Holy Haleakala” — it is kind of annoying after a while and not much of a catch phrase.

  89. pcarini

    So where can I watch this online, preferably somewhere where Discovery knows that I’m interested? I don’t do the TV thing…

    Also, I see no mention of Bad Universe on the Discovery Channel website, wtf?

    Whether I see it or not, here’s to it being insanely successful! *cheers*

  90. frater mus

    He really, really needs to quit saying that. If he continues the annoying exclamations TiVo will get a thumbs down for shows he hosts.

  91. MattShizzle

    When is episode 2?


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