Last night was the debut of io9 pal Phil "bad astronomer" Plait's new Discovery show, Bad Universe. It was an explodey investigation of what would happen if Earth were hit with an asteroid, and how we could prevent it.
There's a distinctly Mythbusters feeling to this show, partly because one of Plait's goals is to debunk "junk science," especially the stuff you see in Hollywood movies. And he's not just going to tell you how asteroids work - Plait goes to EMRTC in New Mexico to simulate an asteroid impact with a huge amount of TNT:
Then he makes a comet, and shoots it with a laser:
What makes this show so terrific is Plait's animated geekery, and his facility with the pop culture where most of his audience has probably learned a lot of (often bad) science. I also appreciated how much Plait emphasized ways to avert the disasters he shows. Sure, there's glee in recreating mega-explosions, but there's also a mission behind the madness. Plait wants our scientific communities to be prepared to help save the world when we're menaced by a giant rock from space - which, he points out, we are bound to be, and probably sooner rather than later.
Good science, awesome experiments with fire, and sound solutions to Earth-threatening problems? Sign me up. It's not a sure thing that Plait's show will be picked up for series yet, so let's hope Discovery Channel makes the right decision and gives us more Bad Universe!
You can find out more about Phil Plait by checking out his blog, Bad Astronomy.