More Bad Universe Episode 2 teasers!

By Phil Plait | October 5, 2010 11:10 am

Tomorrow night is the premiere of Episode 2 of Bad Universe! And just in time, Discovery Channel has put up a new teaser for it. This one is something I get asked about a lot, since it’s shown briefly in the opening credits: my ride on an F-16 with the Thunderbirds!

I cannot tell you enough how cool that was, and at some point I’ll have to blog about the whole story; prepping for it, the night before when I was soaking in my hotel’s hot tub trying not to be terrified, walking to the grocery store next door to grab some dinner and seeing planes flying overhead at hundreds of kph, drinking about three liters of water and nearly blowing my bladder out while we drove to Nellis Air Force Base.

Sigh. Fun times.

You can find more videos on the Discovery Channel’s main Bad Universe video list, and also just ones from Episode 2.

And don’t forget to leave a comment on my earlier post to get a chance to win swag from Episode 2! The contest end tomorrow (Wednesday October 6) at noon Mountain time.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Bad Universe

Comments (56)

  1. Hunter Hughes

    Apologies if this has been answered before, but is the show available in any way other than the Discovery Channel showing(s)? I don’t have cable or satellite so I have no way of catching it when it airs.

  2. Nomadiq

    I’m still wagering you will lose your lunch :) I’m way jealous though.

  3. Gus Snarp

    Dude! They wrote your name on the side of the plane! That’s so cool.

  4. So… why would a space traveler be pulling high-Gs for long periods of time? Wouldn’t they be enjoying NO Gs for most of the journey…?

  5. Aerimus

    What? No barrel roll? Ah man….

  6. Gary

    Can’t wait to see this episode! I like the way they even put Phil’s name on the side of the plane. My only minor qualm is the idea interstellar travel would necessarily require such high accelerations. I worked out that just at one gee acceleration (9.85 m/s2) a spacecraft could reach 72% lightspeed in one year earth time (but only about 10.8 months would pass for the astronauts) and at that speed (though I know of no fuel efficient enough to reach it) the time dilation is 1.4, so it would take 14 earth years to coast 10 light years, but only 10 years would pass for the astronauts, so it’s practically as good as travelling at the speed of light!

  7. Jason

    “So… why would a space traveler be pulling high-Gs for long periods of time? Wouldn’t they be enjoying NO Gs for most of the journey…?”

    I guess that would depend on the kind of journey, but assuming you had the energy to do it the quickest way (ship time) to get somewhere is to accelerate the entire trip (or rather accelerate half the way there and decelerate the rest of the way).

    If you instead had a ship that would take 10,000 years to get anywhere and spent most of its time coasting then yeah you’d have no acceleration.

    My question is why would the acceleration have to be that high, accelerating at 1G will still put you at significant percentages of c in reasonable amounts of time… in 30 years of 1G the range could be 1500+ ly (ignoring where the energy to accelerate for 30 years comes from lol).

  8. Phil, I hate you.
    Thanks,
    Roy.

    P.S. As an aviation nut, I would give my left one to take that ride.

  9. ASFalcon13

    Very cool! I’m a light aircraft pilot, and I’ve had the opportunity to pull some g’s flying in the backseat of an aerobatic plane a couple of times, but getting a ride in an F-16 would be an awesome experience! I’m definitely jealous!

    I do have a small nitpick with the video though…it’s unlikely that a g-suit like the one you wore would be of much use to a space traveller. Yours works for fighter pilots because the acceleration you feel in a hard pull is radially outward from the center of the turn, and roughly head-to-toe, so all the blood rushes to your lower extremeties. However, for a space traveler lying on their back in a rocket with their legs up (think of an astronaut aboard the space shuttle), the acceleration they feel will be “eyeballs in” – that is, front to back. In this case, all the blood is going to already be rushing to their torso and head anyway, so the g-suit on the lower extremeties really doesn’t have much to contribute to this.

    Really awesome video otherwise…hope you had fun!

  10. Minos

    “walking to the grocery store next door to grab some dinner”
    Did you make sure to select something that would look interesting when it came back up?

  11. Serious envy right here. I’m actually planning on watching live (which I never do anymore) just for you Phil.

  12. Mad

    Man, I’m so jealous. Sometime I have to fly in one of those too!

  13. MoonShark

    Is there any way a pale, frail, scientist-wannabe could score a ride like that? I’m no masochist, but I’d be willing to face the awful stomach feeling for a chance!

  14. Charlie Young

    That must have been way cooler than any roller coaster you’ve ever done…

  15. Jamie Mueller

    So now are you and Adam Savage going to get into the Airforce/Navy fight (since he rode on a Navy Blue Angel F-18 and you rode on an Airforce F-16)?

  16. As a USAF Pilot, I can attest to the fact that flying in a high performance jet and pulling Gs like that is the most fun you can ever have in your life with your clothes on. :D

  17. Raskolnikov

    Nah, aliens will use an Alcubierre warp drive. 8)

  18. Atkinson

    Phil, you are a happy guy!
    What the next? The Vomit Comet???
    Atk
    Oops, hold your balls BETWEEN the support stripes of the parachute! ;)

  19. You missed your calling Maverick!

    ~Rhaco

  20. Kris

    First off, why does Mr. Plait at 1:54 reference an entity, which, according to himself, does not exist? I have found that incredibly funny.

    Second, the whole experiment does not make much sense. Due to the relativistic effects, a spacecraft constantly accelerating at 1g could reach the center of galaxy (ca. 50,000 ly out) in 20 years proper time. Given that the ship would also have to decelerate, the Milky Way could be traversed in 40 years — that is within a single human lifetime. Given that there are potentially interesting planets within 1000 ly radius, a relativistic spacecraft accelerating at 1g would be an entirely practical mean of travel.

    Third, the experiment naively assumes that a race sufficiently advanced to develop an interstellar ship did not develop suspended animation technology (or was inherently capable of hibernating). Suspended animation makes the issue pretty much moot: a hibernated organism can withstand both high accelerations and long transit times.

    Fourth, there is also a good chance that a race sufficiently advanced to develop interstellar ships, would have also developed antigravity technology (as our current understanding of physics does not preclude such effects). In such case, a spacecraft accelerating at (say) 10g could be equipped with a device generating a an oppositely directed 9g gravitational field inside, resulting in passengers experiencing only 1g acceleration.

  21. Grand Lunar

    Way cool, Phil!
    And how nice of them to put your name on the plane. ;)

    Definately will have to check out the episode for the full backstory on this one, since I’m a bit confused as to why aliens would experience this for long periods of time.

    Incidently, you now have a brief feel for the G’s on the shuttle at lift off, yes?

  22. NAW

    Checked them out. They are big time teasers this time. I really wish I could get cable but just can’t for now. Unless you want me to sell bottles of Electro-magno-purified Healing Air for some spare cash. Then I can easly get cable.

  23. Chris

    One qualm about that Phil. The human body can adapt to extreme environments. If I put you on top of a mountain you’d think it was impossible to live up there for an length of time because the air was so thin, but eventually you’d feel quite at home. If you were born on the moon and came to Earth you’d think the gravity was way too strong. Why couldn’t the body adapt to higher gravity environments and if it couldn’t, then if the aliens are smart enough to build interstellar spaceships, they could genetically modify the passengers to withstand the higher acceleration.

    Oh and what about inertial dampeners?

  24. Michel

    Dr Phil is a tease!

  25. Aleksandar

    I must join the critiques.

    Most of the conceivable rocket engines suitable for interstellar travel will produce nowhere near 1G. And even without counting on relativistic effects, you will be limited to modest C fractions by drives maximum theoretical performance, and your mass fraction eating up all payload for fuel.

    If you had a magical drive that could sustain 1G at every velocity you would be sufficiently close to C in just a couple of years of ship time.

    I’m sorry but argument about long term crew endurance in high G environment is completely irrelevant to discussion of possibility of interstellar flight.

  26. powerdroid

    Even the atheist skeptic calls out to God, sometimes. I bet you wish you could take that line back, Dr. Plait. It looked like a fun time, though.

  27. Who cares if greater than 1G is even practical for spaceflight. HE GOT TO RIDE IN A FRIKKIN F-16!!!!eleventy!one!!!11

    Bunch of sticks in the mud! :D

  28. James

    Phil you should have tried the Energy Straining Maneuver. Its taught to pilots to help keep their blood from pooling in their feet. Basically you squeeze your diaphragm muscles while in high g turns. A video my class watches each year when we talk about high g forces describes an ESM as exactly like “straining on the toilet when you’re constipated”. Make sure you use the restroom before the flight I guess….

  29. Steven
  30. Hey, I guess people will just have to watch the episode to find out why aliens would be experiencing high G forces… :D

  31. EdZ

    Nice! Now do the same while sitting in a bathtub filled with salty water (of equal density to human tissue), preferably with your lungs filled with oxygenated fluid of similar density, and tell us if things feel any better.

    As for why high g tolerances might be useful for interstellar joyrides: the acceleration phase maybe gradual, especially if you use an external fuel source like a beamrider, but some of the more… er…’radical’ minimal-fuel deceleration schemes may not be so pleasant, especially if you want to go from c-fractional to solar-orbital speeds within a target solar system.

  32. Rory Kent

    “Do a barrel roll! Press Z or R twice.”

    That was some really great footage. I felt a visceral reaction; I could actually imagine what it’d be like (but I’m sure my conception of it is still rather weak).

    I really want to watch this series, but Discovery UK doesn’t have any plans to air it, to my knowledge. :(

  33. T. Miller

    Come on Phil. You know that there is no interplanetary spacecraft that is capable of producing 3G of linear acceleration for minutes let alone weeks or months.

    29.4m/s^2 is 3g acceleration. At that rate you would reach 1c in just under 4 months.

  34. Saw episode 1 on Sunday – I am very pleased we in the Great White North didn’t have to wait 6 months!

  35. Chip

    Just figure our how to accelerate to within 95% the speed of light – (without turning people into chunky salsa) – then “cruise” at that stable sub-light speed in comfortable micro-gravity without pulling any Gs for a while. You’ll get to planets within this half of the galaxy in pretty good time.

    Since space is extremely tenuous yet for a spacecraft dust and gas will seem compressed at that speed, your ship will be akin to an ice breaker. You’ll have to precede your ship’s arrival in a given area with electromagnetic pulses (allowable at light speed) to push aside molecules or even pebbles and forge a vacuum tunnel.

    Then you’ll have to figure out how to slow down relative to the frame of the destination. And there’s also maintaining life support, air, food, water, power, systems…or…relax and watch it all solved on Star Trek reruns. :D

  36. eyesoars

    James@28:

    That’s also called the ‘grunt’ maneuver, and it’s notionally just like straining on the pot. It helps, even with the flight suit, and the flight suit helps more. Most people black out at 4-6 Gs w/o a flight suit, and the flight suit adds maybe a g or two to that.

    You don’t really need to go terribly fast to get big Gs. You just need to be able to turn tight circles. Most any aircraft can manage that.

  37. Jonh

    Phil’s flight was as useful as most Mythbusters’ explosions. I approve it, nonetheless.

  38. Messier Tidy Upper

    Wow. Oh my FSM that looks like fun. :-)

    Did you have the right stuff? :-)

    Of course, an interplanetary or interstellar flight need not be pulling so many gee’s constantly methinks.

  39. Pete Jackson

    And keep beating on Discovery Channel UK to run Bad Astronomy over there in Lizzies Queendom:

    http://www.yourdiscovery.com/uk/

  40. Woww, that looks so cooool!! I once took a flight in an old four-seat wobbly airplane and it already made me throw-up, but nevertheless I definitely would like to try this!!!

  41. I am both jealous that you got to take this flight and (considering my fear of falling which would be triggered big time by that plane) relieved that it wasn’t me. I look forward to seeing more Bad Universe tonight. Going to try to watch it live, but will be DVRing it just in case. (Also useful for watching it again and again and again.)

  42. Very curious to see why passengers on an interstellar spacecraft would have to endure high G-forces for so long…
    But my main question is- does the oxygen mask have to stay on while you’re in the air? Because you sure as hell wouldn’t want to puke in to that thing…

  43. ASFalcon13

    @Rory Kent

    “That was some really great footage. I felt a visceral reaction; I could actually imagine what it’d be like (but I’m sure my conception of it is still rather weak)”

    I’ve pulled 4-5g unassisted (no g-suit) in light airplanes before (I’ve experienced aerobatic flight in both a Bellance Decathlon and a Cessna 150 Aerobat). To get an even better idea of how it feels, imagine this. Imagine that you’re sitting in a chair, and someone comes along and attaches tethers to your face and body. Then, all of a sudden, he quickly attaches half a ton of weights to the other end of the tethers. Everything suddenly feels like it weighs 5 times as much as it usually does – you’re body’s trying to squish itself into your seat cushion, and it takes a lot of effort to even attempt to lift up an arm or your head. That’s the best way I can describe the sensation, anyway.

  44. Cindy

    What no “Holy Haleakala”?

  45. Jesper

    Your NAME is on the PLANE! :)

    When is Bad Universe coming to Europe (specifically the Netherlands)? Can’t wait to see it.

  46. Sarah

    For all those jealous of Phil’s ride: The fun quotient in about any aerobatic light aircraft is just about as high. Pitts, Christen Eagle, Starduster, the biplanes are my sentimental favorite, but there are lots of options.

    True, for just a ride there will be no jet engine involved. ( Unless you spend big $ and ride a russian Mig. ) But you can fly (and even buy) one of these yourselves!

    –Airplane nut

  47. 7. Jason Says: “‘So… why would a space traveler be pulling high-Gs for long periods of time? Wouldn’t they be enjoying NO Gs for most of the journey…?’
    I guess that would depend on the kind of journey, but assuming you had the energy to do it the quickest way (ship time) to get somewhere is to accelerate the entire trip (or rather accelerate half the way there and decelerate the rest of the way).”

    Correct. If you were, say, the Robinson family and wanted to head to Alpha Centauri, you could do the boost-and-coast method. After getting to solar escape velocity (~36,000 MPH/58.000 Km/hr) you could coast the 4.2 light years, but it would take 78,000 years to get there. If you had a magical ship like the Jupiter 2 that can accelerate continuously at 1g, the trip is reduced to 5.8 years with a mid-flight turnaround velocity of 95%c. Those are ground years. To the crew (undergoing the accelerations) the trip would seem like 3.5 years due to relativistic effects.

    BTW, I didn’t just pull those numbers out of a hat. There’s a new ARA Press book on the making of the “Lost in Space” pilot coming out in about a month. Stay tuned!

    – Jack

  48. 9. ASFalcon13 Says: “…it’s unlikely that a g-suit like the one you wore would be of much use to a space traveller. Yours works for fighter pilots because the acceleration you feel in a hard pull is radially outward from the center of the turn, and roughly head-to-toe, so all the blood rushes to your lower extremities. However, for a space traveler lying on their back in a rocket, the acceleration they feel will be front to back. In this case, all the blood is going to already be rushing to their torso and head anyway, so the g-suit on the lower extremities really doesn’t have much to contribute to this.”

    While this is correct, it doesn’t address the other problems with g-suits, even if the aliens decided to fly standing up. G-suits are transient helpers. The bladders inflate during a turn and then relax at normal (or at least lower) g-forces. If they were active all the time you’d have no lower extremities in a really short while.

    – Jack

  49. ASFalcon13

    @Sarah

    “For all those jealous of Phil’s ride: The fun quotient in about any aerobatic light aircraft is just about as high.”

    Sometimes, even more so. The really high-performance aerobatic birds can perform some downright ridiculous maneuvers. To (mis)quote Ed Hamill, “You can’t go Mach in a Pitts, but you can’t lomcevak in an F-16.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQpnzMJRtCU&feature=related

  50. David Vanderschel

    For those who don’t get The Discovery Channel and wonder how they can get a chance to view the Bad Universe shows: A friend told me that she had been able to find the first one as a torrent download. She had missed it when it first ran and she had been frustrated for many weeks that the Discovery Channel ran it on only that one night, which I agree was strange given that such a high percentage of Discovery’s shows are reruns. I was fortunate enough to have caught that show the one night it ran, and I do recommend it. Surely Discovery will rerun it eventually.

  51. Brad Hoehne

    Wow. I had intended to come on here to quibble about the g issue being irrelevant, since even 1g of acceleration could get you up to decent relativistic speeds in a reasonable amount of time, but I find that a whole bunch of other folks have beat me to it. My faith in humanity is increased.

    That said, I think the issues brought up in the show SHOULD have been:

    1) Space is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY big. I get the sense sometimes that folks just don’t realize how far the stars actually are and how much of an effort it would be to get there.

    2) The energy involved in getting a spacecraft of any appreciable size to near light speed is mind-bogglingly huge. Flying to another star system, say 1000 ly away, to take over a planet and use its resources makes about much sense as flying to Australia (from the US) to get the raw materials for a sandwich.

  52. Brad Hoehne

    I just did a quick “Back of the envelope” calculation. To get a puny 1000 kg spaceship up to 99% the speed of light- so as to take advantage of a decent amount of time dilation- would require roughly 6 x10^20 joules of energy. That’s roughly the energy equivalent of burning 600 billion barrels of oil or firing off around 6 million Hiroshima bombs. In other words, the energy cost of getting from one star system to another in a practical amount of time is ridiculously prohibitive.

  53. I am confused. Why would an interstellar traveler have to experience high Gs? At 1 G (which I am used to) I could accelerate to an effective velocity of 1 c in 1 year (at which point it appears to me that I am traveling at 1 c due to time dilation). With just 1 G acceleration I can go to Alpha Centauri in about 4 subjective years, Sirius in about 6, clean across the galaxy in about 50. The limitation isn’t the G force you can withstand, it is the energy needed to accelerate a vehicle at that rate for that long.

  54. Loren Pechtel

    Another vote that this makes no sense. The limit on interstellar travel is fuel, not acceleration (unless you have to complete your acceleration within a short distance because it’s coming from some local feature–a star or a laser you leave behind or the like.)

    If you can sustain 1g then the stars are easily within reach. Higher accelerations will cut down the shipboard time but they won’t really make that big a change in Earth time.

  55. martin

    How is this relevant at all to space flying astronauts?

    Obviously, some people, aka pilots, are flying under these circumstances all the time, for several years.

    If an alien astronaut would be on a ship flying across space, he would have received the proper training before take off of course. The training you didn’t go through.

    And you are also assuming that the alien tech would be restrained to our knowledge of physics and technology. Maybe they would have found a way around the G’s.

  56. SkyviewGlenn

    Phil,

    Could you explain further your talk re long duration debilitating g-forces that an accelerating space traveler would experience even when away from Earth or other large bodies creating gravity? Wouldn’t g-forces diminish when astronauts have reached cruising speed? A mini follow up web video would help.

    Question # 4 copied below from Responses to “More Bad Universe Episode 2 teasers!” is probably widely pondered;
    “4. GreyDuck Says:
    October 5th, 2010 at 11:38 am

    So… why would a space traveler be pulling high-Gs for long periods of time? Wouldn’t they be enjoying NO Gs for most of the journey…?’

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »