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The show courted mild controversy when it emerged that at least one of the experiments was faked by a pyrotechnics department. The alkali metals are known to react rapidly with water, producing hydrogen gas and energy, with potentially explosive results. An experiment was set up to demonstrate how these metals reacted by dropping them in water, with the expectation that the heavier alkali metals would be more potent. Lithium, sodium, potassium and rubidium reacted with increasing potency. However caesium (the heaviest of the alkali metals commonly available) simply sank to the bottom of their "tank" (a bath) before it could react significantly, which was far less dramatic than the other reactions suggested. The producers had the bath wired with explosives and blown to pieces, and presented this instead. According to a statement issued by the production company, they frequently used pyrotechnics in this way. See more »
I'm an American, and to my knowledge this show hasn't yet made it to US TV so I can't actually review it. I've only seen their now infamous clip on alkali metals.
Last night I saw the Mythbusters demonstrate that Brainiac faked their spectacular explosions with rubidium and cesium metal. I have to say that I'm more than a little dismayed. Like many people, I'd been taken. I remember thinking that the rubidium and cesium explosions seemed well out of proportion to the much less violent lithium, sodium and potassium reactions. But hydrogen/air/heat mixtures are highly unpredictable, and besides who can argue with empirical evidence?
Lying just isn't cool, even (especially) in the cause of science education. There's no greater sin in science and engineering than faking a demo.
Now I fully understand that "Brainiac: Science Abuse" is more about entertainment than science, and some forms of entertainment such as magic rely entirely on deception. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as you label it as such.
But just as the occasional magician crosses the line when he claims real supernatural powers, so does an show like Brainiac when it claims to be doing real science experiments.
Now if I ever do get to watch this show, I'll be too busy continually wondering if what I'm seeing is real or fake to enjoy it. It will certainly ruin whatever educational value it might have had.
Shame on you guys.
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