A night of geekery and Discovery!

By Phil Plait | October 6, 2010 10:14 am

If you were curious about what I’m doing tonight, here’s my schedule (all times Eastern):

marian_me7:00 p.m.: I’ll be watching the live stream performance from my friend Marian Call, who is singing at the Think Geek HQ in Washington DC! This is such a high density of nerdery it may collapse to form a black hole. I have links to various marianesque chanteusery in an earlier post about her.

9:00 p.m.: The premiere of season 8 of MythBusters on The Discovery Channel! Woohoo! The previews look great.

10:00 p.m.: Hmmm, I know there’s something going on at this time… oh, right. The premiere of Episode 2 of Bad Universe, "Alien Attack!" also on Discovery Channel! I showed a teaser yesterday, and here’s another one. In this, I went spelunking in an underground cave in New Mexico to look for extremophiles:

Did you catch the "O Brother Where Art Thou" reference? I have lots of stories about that cave, which I’ll be live-tweeting tonight during the premier!

So tune in and watch as I try to figure out if I, for one, am in imminent danger of having to welcome our new insect overlords. And don’t forget: there’s still a little bit of time left (if it’s before noon Mountain time, that is) to win free swag from this episode!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Bad Universe, TV/Movies

Comments (34)

Links to this Post

  1. Bad Universe Episode 2 Review « IBY’s Island Universe | October 7, 2010
  1. Ben

    I’m not sure you can get away with saying “spelunking” on TV.

  2. Andrew

    “We finally reached our destination-

    A wallll of poop.”

  3. Menyambal

    The only “O Brother Where Art Thou” reference that I thought I heard was “tight spot”. Phil said “that was a tight spot”, where the movie said a couple of times “we’re in a tight spot”.

    I like the video, and will certainly watch the show.

  4. You know, with the mention of Mythbusters premiering tonight for American viewers, that made me think of something: In Canada, we’re getting new episodes of your show sooner than we get new episodes of Mythbusters. Which is to say, Discovery Canada is treating you better than the Mythbusters.

    You may commence stroking your ego and/or rubbing it in Adam’s face.

  5. Roy Crawford

    Glad you’re going into an underground cave; those above ground caves are not nearly as interesting. Love your blog and your show.

  6. Dick Cheney has no pulse, yet he lives. Cave snot, Deinococcus radiodurans, Zimbabwe. Space aliens! All your Krebs cycle are belong to us.

  7. Now, is it “spelunking” or is it “caving,” because I’ve had more than one obsessive, ground dwelling, angry hippie tell me i was using the wrong one =)


  8. Since I cannot stand to watch TV anymore, but I want to support you, I am going to be DVRing Mythbusters, and watching you live. I never do this. Feel honored.

  9. Grand Lunar

    Don’t think I caught the reference. But then, I don’t believe I’ve watched “O Brother, Where art thou?” all the way through.

    Haven’t you mentioned Miss Boston here before, or am I imagining things?

  10. Tribeca Mike

    Holy pH values, Batman! Looks fantastic. Glad to see you’re reprising the “I’m driving to meet my friend” passenger seat p.o.v. gag from the previous episode. Jolly good. 😉

  11. Jeff

    not only is this life form extreme, “cool”, and ancient, I’ll bet ya no matter what happens here on the earth’s surface, it’ll still be alive when the sun becomes a red giant, and maybe even then be the last life form extinguished on late great planet earth 5 billion or so years from now. How will mammallian life be “remembered” against this timeframe?

  12. And here I thought the OBWaT? reference was going to be Phil suddenly putting his hand on his bald head and gasping, “My hair!”

  13. Nic

    Wow Phil you are a heck of a presenter.
    I don’t often watch TV (my own TV got watched, last time, over a year ago) – but this is great stuff! (most TV is of course brainless twaddle).

    From this clip and a few other appetizers – looks fantastic – when can I buy the DVD set in the UK?

  14. Trebuchet

    Now if Discovery (& History & TLC &c) just had more Mythbusters & Phyl and less ghosts/Bermuda Triangle/UFO’s/IceRoadTruckers/People with too many kids programs….

    Am awaiting the e-mail notifying me of my swag

  15. ThinkGeek’s offices are actually in Fairfax down the street from where I work. I wish they had a store front… I also wish I had cable so I could check out your show! I’m going to have to wait for the DVD, sadly.

  16. OK, as a caver who’s currently staying up late administering a take-home astronomy exam, watching a “Bad Universe” with caving in it is *ideal*.


    I’m watching now, and having watched the first section on acceleration being a major problem for interstellar travel… really? You “need” a certain acceleration like 2 or 3 ‘Gs’ to reach the Moon? High accelerations are needed for interstellar travel? I can handle 1 G for fairly extended periods (42 years and counting), and that would be sufficient to reach 0.97 c after just 2 years (ship time).

    It’s not that it’s not fun, or interesting, or informative. It’s just that… well, it’s wrong. And wrong in ways that I could get my students to realize :(.

    And yeah, speaking as a caver, the guys who do it in detail generally call it caving.

  17. Grand Lunar

    Just finished the episode, and it’s pretty cool.
    I can imagine what might have to be left out, since you only have less than an hour to educate people, where with the book time was no factor (right?).

    I am fuzzy on the acceleration part, since I know that speculation for Mars missions would allow for a manned trip to get their in 7 or 8 months with either chemical or nuclear thermal rockets.
    So, does this mean greater acceleration for that trip?

    The rest, though, is fairly cool.
    I’m curious how much we can rely on the specualtion on what aliens might look light. But as with this whole thing, we really don’t know!

    Looking forward to episode 3!

  18. Jack Mitcham

    1) I see they really cut down on the Holy Haleakalas this time. I only noticed two.

    2) Watching you crawling through that tight cave gave me chills, and I’m not even claustrophobic! I’d be terrified of being able to fit through one way, but not the other.

  19. noen
  20. Greg

    I have a problem with the part that aliens would probably be similar to us. No-one addressed the issue that an alien life form may not use bilateral symmetry. The Cambian explosion showed us that trilateral and other forms of symmetry are valid and may be more efficient.

  21. Kenny

    My question would be although life on Earth exists in extreme places, did it not originate in friendly conditions and then spread to some unlikely places? Can a genesis of life occurr in extreme places?

  22. DavidHW

    Just finished viewing. Excellent episode. Nice crackdown on the “Haleakalas”. :-)

    Was greatly intrigued by the “self-replicating machines destroy the universe” scenario mentioned at the very end of the episode. Did I miss or can someone tell me what the assumed speed of these probes is for the figures Phil states in the episode? In other words, was he assuming propagation at roughly the speed of our fastest probes (e.g., the Voyagers)? Or something a significant fraction of the speed of light?

    It’s an extraordinary claim that one civilization with a few robots could destroy the universe. I’d love to see the extraordinary math. :-)

  23. Stargazer

    ” That’s some fine spelunking there, Lou. Some mighty fine spelunking.” – Chief Wiggum

    Sorry, I watch The Simpsons too much :)

  24. DavidHW


    The reason this intrigues me is the following: if such a scenario is possible, then it’s a rather strong argument against there being a large number of advanced civilizations like ours in the universe. Because if such a scheme is easily executable, surely at least one rogue civilization would have already done so long ago.

    Unless we’re the first. In one good way and one very, very, very horrible one. :(

  25. Aleksandar

    I really hope mr. Plait will give us some explanation on all “high accelerations for long periods of time mandatory for interplanetary and interstellar travel”. Its simply wrong. For all these years I never saw mr. Plait make a mistake anywhere near that in magnitude and not post apology and explanation in hours. :(

  26. Scott de B.

    You “need” a certain acceleration like 2 or 3 ‘Gs’ to reach the Moon? High accelerations are needed for interstellar travel? I can handle 1 G for fairly extended periods (42 years and counting), and that would be sufficient to reach 0.97 c after just 2 years (ship time).

    What’s more, with relativistic effects a constant acceleration of 1G would allow you to cross the known universe in something like 50 years (ship time).

  27. Nemesis

    I tried to post this elsewhere for all the naysayers:

    I don’t know, but maybe the BA was saying that space travelers will want to get here to probe us as quickly as possible.

    Here are some journey times to some well known interstellar destinations (from Wikipedia):
    Hopefully it’s right or I’m opening myself to a world of criticism.

    Destination 1G 2G 5G 10G Planetary time
    Alpha Centauri 4 years 2.8 1.8 1.3 5
    Sirius 7 5 3 2.2 13
    Galactic Core 340 244 155 110 30,000

    I assume the velocities reached at these distances don’t approach light speed, therefore time dilation isn’t as much of a factor as when traveling across the known universe.

  28. RickJ

    Pete should have turned to you and said “They’re dead Jim”. I asked him about that and he said while they appeared dead at that time, the next day they were alive. So you didn’t kill them after all. Even the weak lab E Coli survived the impact. Something buried deep in an object large enough to survive but small enough to reach near terminal velocity but still be frozen in the core on impact would seem to have quite a good survival chance. They then have to survive long enough for weathering or impact to open a crack for its escape. After millions of years in space that would seem the easy part.


  29. How much of the cave is underground?

    Spider’s a unique cave..

  30. I am curious, does Phil Plait actually read or ever reply to the comments on this blog? The errors he included in Wed’s show having to do with G-forces and actual travel times were so glaring that most high school physics students could have caught them, yet he hasn’t replied to any of the people who pointed them out here yet. You could get to the moon in a few hours at 1G, and that includes both acceleration and deceleration, the 2G requirement he spoke about is needed for about 20 minutes or so. To say that you would need to maintain 2G for 3 days is wrong on multiple levels. His estimations for Mars travel were even worse.

    If Mr. Plait doesn’t actually read these, could whoever does please point these out to him?

  31. amphiox

    “The reason this intrigues me is the following: if such a scenario is possible, then it’s a rather strong argument against there being a large number of advanced civilizations like ours in the universe. Because if such a scheme is easily executable, surely at least one rogue civilization would have already done so long ago.”

    Well there are two sorts of scenarios that could answer this. One is that advanced civilizations are very rare, and none of these rare civilizations have tried this. The other is that advanced civilizations are very common, so common that whenever a rogue civilization tries to do something this destructive, a coalition of other civilizations ally together in self defence and remove the rogue from the picture.

  32. Brian S

    Like everyone else, I’d like to see an explanation from Dr. Plait about the whole G-force debacle. It’s so blatantly wrong that it shocks me it was made… I was nearly shouting at my TV. He’s posted corrections about errors he makes on the blog so hopefully we see something here.

    I’d also like to here how he figures the Drake Equation says there are about 20 technological civilizations out there. All the variables right now are wild guesses.

  33. Bad Universe kicks ass, Phil. But I implore you—excise from your catch-phrase repertoire all future “holy haleakalas.” The first time was cute. The tenth was irritating. The twentieth or so I was nonsensically praying for respite and lost sight of any science content. Especially since I introduced my wife to you through that show and now she rolls her eyes and calls you “The Holy Haleakala Guy.” Not good. If she hears it once more she may irrationally switch channels to The 700 Club. So please, help a fellow skeptic out. :-)


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