It’s some science!

2 03 2016

You might want to sit down for this… It’s Not Rocket Science Episode 3 had some science! 

I know after Episode 1 and Episode 2 this might come as a shock. The self-professed “science-based entertainment show” hasn’t put science at the top of their agenda but this week we learned a little something about friction.

Romesh was to lie under a fridge suspended on a rope draped at right angles over a bar. The weight on the end of the rope was going to wrap around the bar. The friction of the rope wrapped around the bar was meant to stop the fridge before it crushed Romesh. 

This is a traditional demo called the capstan key. A falling object is saved as a smaller object causes the string it is suspended from to wrap around the experimenters finger. 

Kevin Fong explained to us that the more loops in the rope the more friction. This demo was effective because we saw the before and the after. Romesh could pull Kevin with no loops but not once three loops had been put in. 

  
Congratulations should go to all involved. This was a good explanation of friction. (If you are interested finding out more about the science this article is a good start.)

I just wish the show didn’t think it had to hype everything to the point where things become unbelievable. If you set something up so that the audience can’t believe in the presentation then they won’t believe in the science either. 

I wonder how many people believed that friction explanation when they were simultaneously being asked to believe a presenter (who had just introduced the piece from the studio) was about to get killed?

The show is heavily influenced by Top Gear and Mythbusters

In Top Gear if someone was in mortal peril we actually saw them die. Of course, it was just a joke, they would then appear in the studio saying how terrible it was they’d died. Top Gear knew that we knew that they knew (!) you couldn’t actually put anyone, let alone someone off the TV, in mortal peril. One of the reasons Top Gear ran for so long was this respect it showed its audience. 

  
Mythbusters on the other hand took a different approach. They genuinely set something up that would put a person in mortal peril so instead of a normal person they’d use Buster, their mascot crash test dummy, as a stand in. Again this respect for the audience was a big reason for their success over many seasons. 

  
It’s Not Rocket Science is taking a third approach. They are seriously expecting us to believe they are putting the presenters in mortal peril. 

This week Romesh really really could have been crushed by a fridge. Last week him and Ben we’re really really going to be slammed into each other. In the first show Rachel was going to be really really burned to a crisp. 

From reading other on-line reviews and the Twitter feed I know I’m not the only one who wants to shout, “stop insulting my intelligence” at the TV. 

And as I’ve written before about another show that thought nothing of overhyping and then faking demos at least hide the safety wires if you want us to believe the presenter could really really die. 

Here’s the first shot without the weight that squashed the water melons- one line is attached to the fridge:

   
 
And here the second with the weight attached and Romesh underneath- there’s one line attached to the weight and one attached presumably to a bar that would swing the fridge away from him if anything went wrong:

   
 
No one can blame the producers for having to have a safety line but its presence totally ruins the demo. 

I’d much rather them present it like Top Gear would have by putting something valuable of Romesh’s under the fridge instead. Or like Mythbusters would have by putting Buster under something even more spectacular like a truck. Both treatments allow for all the jeopardy and reaction shots the producers needed and might give even better footage but crucially we wouldn’t be asked to believe something unbelievable as we are being told to believe in science. 

There’s such an opportunity being missed with this show. It really is a shame because all the elements are there. The presenters are great, the budget is huge. But I can’t watch any more of it I’m afraid. If it gets better drop me a line to tell me and I’ll try again. 

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