Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pitch for a tv show

Summer blogging has been and will continue to be light, as I try to get some professional writing done. In the meantime, though, I have to give my elevator pitch for the awesome new TV show that would be great fun. It's "Chopped" meets "Mythbusters" meets "Scrap Heap Challenge"/"Junkyard Wars". Start off with three teams. Give them a physics- or engineering-related task that they have to accomplish (e.g., write the opening crawl from Star Wars in one mm^2; weigh a single grain of salt), some number of tools that they have to use (e.g., a green laser pointer and an infrared corrected microscope objective), and access to a stocked "pantry" (including a PC, electronics components, etc.). Give them a time limit (4 hours, cleverly edited down to half an hour in broadcast). Points awarded for success at the task, time used, and elegance. I think it could be a hit, particularly if there are explanations (narrated by cool resident experts) delivered in a fun, accessible tone. It'd be fun, even if it did conjure up images of Guy Fleegman in Galaxy Quest.


AdamQShaw said...

There was a show on in Britain in the 90s that is similar to your pitch. It was called Beat That Einstein, presented by improvisational comedian and former research physicist Richard Vranch. I really enjoyed it when I was younger, shame it didn't last.

Not much info online but here's a summary,_Einstein

Craig said...

On a smaller scale this could also work as a kind of online competition, similar to what you see in programming competitions or electronics design contests (see e.g. You don't get the same exposure with which to educate the public, but you also avoid the costs and producers whims of TV.

Anonymous said...

I think scrap heap works because the problems are very open, and can in fact be solved with random scrap.

Telling someone to make a working 10nm^2 transistor and pointing them to a scrapheap simply doesn't work in the same way.

For most interesting scientific challenges, you have to first design a solution for the problem, to know that it is solvable at all. As you do in your description by deciding that they need a laser point and relevant optics. This sort of ruins the challenge. The challenge changes from "what can you imagine" to "Can you guess what I'm thinking".

Similar problems seem to have occurred in the show AdamQShaw mentions, which again wasn't open ended problems but cases of "We know how to do this, and are giving you the ingredients to carry out our solution, now go ahead and do it".