Practical chemistry

It’s easy to be cynical about other peoples’ work, especially when it’s from those notably treacherous TV types. But still, what do we think of this: the Brainiac bunch dropping alkali metals into water, including Rubidium and Caesium?

OK, it’s a heap of fun. But my guess? Fake. It doesn’t ‘feel’ right.

…or am I just snarky because it’s not my show?


  1. Somehow I didn’t get the sound. Was there an explanation of the long delay between the drop and the explosion. Were the alkali metals coated in squishy Persil capsules which love to wash?
    Now there’s a murder weapon…

  2. {the long delay wasn’t chemical so much as televisual I guess] But as to whether the whole thing was a fake, Mr Sanderson, well we’d be talking David Copperfield, and everyone signing a Blood Chit, and somebody leaking it and well alkali metals are pretty potent so why bother? Mind you: they get the stuff, they do the do and they miss the shot, so they have a standby involving a some compressed air and a Dull Boom Maroon… yeah, we’ve worked there, we’ve got the tee-shirt, it happens…

  3. Oh sure, John – using fishing line and dodgy shots to nudge/recreate/repeat a demo is a regular thing, and mostly it’s harmless. But in this case… I think there’s more going on. The wires into the bath that mysteriously appear and disappear are one thing, but most suspicious is how they dropped the samples. If they did what they appear to do, then they’re idiots and frankly I should inform the HSE. If they did something else, though, then… what did they do, and why not show us that?
    And the bottom is line is this: the producers of Brainiac (and, I believe, Mythbusters) think they’re making a pure entertainment show. The viewers, however, believe they’re watching a factual programme. And while we’re admirably cynical about entertainment, we’re remarkably uncritical of documentaries.
    I’m probably over-reacting, but I think that disconnect is ultimately rather dangerous. Certainly, it makes it hard for the rest of us to compete, when the real science doesn’t behave as spectacularly as it seems to on Brainiac.
    But I’m also worried by the response of professional scientists. I’ve had many people from, for example, the IoP and Royal Society point to Brainiac and say to me ‘That’s a terrific show.’ Well, sure it is. But it ain’t science, and that should probably worry them.
    My, I’m being a curmudgeon tonight.

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