The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Phil Plait’s Bad Universe Review

Well, I finally back from a little trip and found Phil Plait’s Bad Universe on my DVR.  Now going into this I have to start with the disclosure that Phil is an old friend of mine so bear that in mind when I say watch it.

The first show is on asteroids and based very closely on his book Death From the Skies. Phil is very much being himself and that is a good thing.  He takes great joy in making big explosions to illustrate what would happen if an asteroid were to impact the Earth and to illustrate different techniques to deflect asteroids and comets.  A nice touch was using different substances to simulate different types of impactors (and had the added benefit of getting to see more explosions).

He does a nice demonstration with a large Fresnel lens to show how focusing sunlight on a comet could effect it.  He uses fruit instead of a comet.  I have played with a Fresnel lens of that size and you can melt pennies and even quarters with it.  Although they didn’t show it, I bet he tried to fry a bunch of other stuff while filming.

Just a couple of quibbles.  Toward the end, he talks about the close approach of Apophis in 2029.  Aphophis will definitely miss us on that pass.  If Apophis passes through a certain “keyhole” as it passes Earth, it could whap us in 2036.  However, the odds of this are 1 in 250,000.  Would have been nice to have the numbers to show this is still really unlikely (and better observations may totally rule it out).

The second quibble is that the idea of a gravity tug got short shrift.  They talk about it a little bit, but I thought it deserved more time since it is probably the best chance we have of deflecting an asteroid.

As for the style of the show, I loved the comic book motif.  It really added to the spirit of fun in the show…and the comic version of  Armageddon was better than the real movie!

So be sure to check out future episodes…check your local listings for future shows.


September 1, 2010 - Posted by | Televsion/Movies

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