Tonight is the premiere of "Bad Universe"! If you’re looking for a reason to watch it, reviews are starting to come in from press folks who got advance copies. So far they’re pretty positive!
- Discovery Channel’s own Space News blog:
Bad Universe: Asteroid Apocalypse is definitely worth the watch, there’s great depth behind the science, plus a really nice Mythbusters-esque feel to the high energy experiments carried out to test Phil’s theories.
Ian O’Neill, who wrote that article, interviewed me for it as well. There are also a few clips from the show online on Discovery’s site, too.
The show does a great job of incorporating a learning factor without making it seem lecturing to the viewer. Honestly, you don’t have to be a SCIENCE! geek to watch this show, heck sit your kids (and/or unlearned significant other) down with you and enjoy. It was entertaining, informative, and the experiments were downright cool. Phil has an excitement in his voice that when he is explaining about a topic you can’t help but listen and absorb the knowledge.
- Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society Blog:
I think my favorite was the slow-mo replay of the very first explosion experiment, where he showed the visible effect of the expanding shock wave, a perfectly hemispherical distortion propagating outward in the air. For his part, my husband was surprised and educated about how we can apply what we learn in laboratory examination of meteorites to understand the composition of asteroids (Phil explained this effectively without ever using the word “spectroscopy” — awesome job).
[I'll note Emily has some exceptions to the show - like the lack of actual imagery of asteroids taken by space probes, and the contribution of amateurs to asteroid detection - and I understand her misgivings. The vagaries of producing a TV program means compromising on what goes in and what gets taken out. We did have both of those in there, but lack of time and difficulty in getting them to fit in the narrative as it evolved meant they didn't survive to the final cut. Making a show like this is far, far harder than I suspected, and those sorts of decisions are one of the many difficulties.]
Dr. Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy fame has been a Science 2.0 favorite since the moment we came online and for almost a decade prior to that. He combines wit and no-nonsense skepticism with the kind of creative reflex that makes fundamental science concepts understandable by virtually everyone who doesn’t hate getting a little smarter.
[Note: they also include an interview I did with them.]
- Wired.com’s Geek Dad:
[I]t’s Plait’s love for science that makes this show great. You can see the glee in his eyes when he’s pushing the button to set off an explosion to simulate an asteroid hitting the Earth. You can see the anticipation in his face when he’s rushing to check on the results of firing a simulated nuclear missile at a simulated asteroid. You can hear in his voice how much fun he’s having burning a hole in a grapefruit with the sun and a Fresnel lens or mixing a homemade comet. And, though Plait is the first to say that he’s not Carl Sagan, I recognized the feeling I got while watching Bad Universe, because it wasn’t very far removed from the feeling the grade-school me got watching Cosmos. It’s a feeling you can’t get from a bunch of cool pictures of space phenomena and a narrator explaining what you’re seeing in voiceover.
[Update 2: Lourdes Cahuich from seti.cl interviewed me on video at SETIcon and we talked about the show.]
I hope y’all watch and enjoy it. And don’t forget: I’ll be live-tweeting the show when it airs using the east coast feed (so from 10 – 11:00 p.m. Sunday night EDT). Follow me on Twitter to get the inside scoop and behind-the-scenes snark!