A fun new addition to National Geographic Channel’s interactive challenge-your-brain programming premiering March 24 (along with "The Numbers Game," which follows it), “None of the Above” conducts on-the-street experiments and asks spectators to predict the outcome as viewers play along.
Providing the biggest bang for the TV buck, many of the stunts are literally explosive: affable British host Tim Shaw delights in blowing things up and igniting them, which leads to inevitable close calls. “We were detonating rocks, and a rock split up so well that the whole crew had to duck and run out of the way. A big rock came over our heads and hit the roof of a car and destroyed it,” Shaw recalls. “But that’s science. You have to keep your wits about you.”
London-born, Sheffield-raised Shaw, a self-described “massive geek” with a degree in mechanical engineering and a background in consumer product design and radio broadcasting, hid his obsession with science as a kid until he realized it was cool after all. Now he’s “trying to get our viewers inspired and interested in science” with the 20-episode series.
Shaw, who devises some of the experiments himself, names such favorites as Prince Rupert’s Drop: “When you heat glass it expands and the outside cools down and contracts while the inside is still hot. You drop it into ice-cold water and the outside freezes and the inside slowly contracts, the two layers are fighting with each other and it explodes,” he describes, noting that “People like the biggest bangs, but the ones that I find amazing and that impress me are things like making ice cream from sugar, vanilla essence and milk with a fire extinguisher. Or putting a light bulb in a inch of water in a microwave — it will light the bulb.” Don’t try it with a CFL though. “It only works with incandescents.”
Shaw, an avid auto rebuilder who previously hosted “Car SOS” for Nat Geo International, enjoyed interacting with the people on the street for "None of the Above." “The women are far better than guessing the answers than the men. They listen and decide and the men are quick to answer before I’ve even asked the question,” he observes. “Typical male behavior.”
The divorced father of two daughters ages 9 and 13, he’s raising his girls to know their way around a workshop. “They’ve got screwdrivers. My 9-year-old is using a router. Both of my daughters have glow-in-the-dark headboards with their names on them that they made themselves. They’re always asking questions: ‘Why?’ ‘How does that work?’”
Shaw admits that his science obsession caused the demise of his marriage, but he’s since found a more like-minded girlfriend who can usually be found tinkering in her own workshop. He hopes that kind of enthusiasm for the way things work translates on screen for viewers of “None of the Above.”
"If I get four people in front of me and one of them doesn’t understand exactly why what they saw happened, I haven’t done my job," Shaw says. "I don’t just want to blow up a building. I want to show why it blew up. We're not promoting that you go home and try those things yourself. But there are certain stunts that we do that you can do at home that are amazing. I hope it inspires you to want to go and question things and ask why and try them.”
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