With a title like "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?", it's fair to expect that something will — and that's what's fun about the Science Channel's new series, which puts viral video stunts to the scientific test.
Blowing up stuff like the duo on "Mythbusters" (with all the necessary don't-try-this-at-home disclaimers) and recreating all kinds of crazy contraptions, bantering buddies Kevin Moore and Grant Reynolds make epic fails fun and educational in the 10-part series, which premieres Feb. 7.
"We try and find something that has a fundamental basis in science and engineering so that we can build it ourselves, make it bigger, better, and safer, but while we're doing it, teach some fundamental principle of science or engineering that the viewer can walk away with," says Moore.
Moore, a metallurgist, and Reynolds, a former Marine Corps sniper, have known each other since they met at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally eight years ago, and for them, it's basically an excuse to indulge their inner 12-year-olds. "Our kid-like curiosity is still there," says Reynolds. "For us to even be in this forum and have the opportunity to do this, it's so much fun." Maybe a little less so for Moore's wife, since the duo conducts experiments in Moore's garage.
"I will never forget the first day when production started, my wife looked out the window and said. "Holy BLEEP! What did we get into?' There are many days she walks out the back door and sees us building something, goes 'OH MY GOD!' and walks away." His 3-year-old son Gage is more enthusiastic. "He loves to come out when Uncle Grant and I are out there."
Whether they're making a trash can rocket or homemade hovercraft, safety is paramount. "Some of the stuff we're doing really is dangerous, so if we have a 20-second stunt or experiment it's not uncommon for us to have a two-hour safety meeting," says Reynolds, noting that pyrotechnic experts and emergency response technicians are standing by. Adds Moore, "I've always had a respect for power tools and things that can hurt you."
Nevertheless, there have been mishaps and injuries. "We wanted to make the ultimate Slip 'N Slide and we thought, 'This will be a piece of cake.' Of all experiments we've done, it turned out to be the most dangerous one that we did. Kevin broke his rib. I ended up hitting my head on a karabiner," Reynolds recalls. "We chose the wrong location and we launched into two feet of water."
In another experiment, "We made a bowling ball that was supposed to be motorized and it worked fairly well, but in trying to make it work better I went down the bowling lane and I slipped and fell on a piece of metal," Moore relates. "My entire right butt cheek was black and blue for two weeks. I couldn't sit."
Others were a lot more fun to do, and less painful. "I think the most fun I've had was the rocket skateboard," offers Reynolds. "We did it on a long board, and I almost went 30 miles an hour on this thing." For Moore, it was the concrete canoe and the vortex cannon that shoots air at two-thirds the speed of sound, "and just demolished trash cans."
Grant Reynolds sits down to a meal on "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?".
There's usually a bet involved in each experiment. "The bet might be a burrito, a steak dinner, a gentlemen's bet, a monetary bet," notes Reynolds. He and Moore spend a lot of time sifting through videos on the Internet to find stunts to test, and not just ones that failed.
"There was a fellow who made a pair of magnetic boots and made a video of himself walking upside down in them and did a really good job. We just wanted to tweak it a little bit," Moore says. "This guy was small. I weigh about 235 pounds. We were trying to up the ante." They recreated a jet-powered go-kart stunt, but more safely. "This guy was on a bike with a jet engine strapped to it and he was in jeans and a tee shirt," he explains. "That's stuff we point out and care about."
They're not concerned about inspiring more acts of unsafe viral idiocy. "The stupid stunts and the stupid people were there way before us," Reynolds points out. "If anything, we're going to show them how to do it safely." He wasn't always so conscientious.
"When I was eight, I put the lawn mower into the pool, while it was running. I wanted to see if it would do the motorboat thing. It didn't," he notes. The third of four brothers, he was always getting in trouble as a kid, but the military straightened him out. He now teaches weapons and tactics to law enforcement and military groups and does high‑risk dignitary protection as his day job.
Grant Reynolds and Kevin Moore discuss an experiment during "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?".
Moore admits that he wasn't a good student until he got to college, which he loved so much that he "kept going and got lots of degrees. I have a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins. I specialize in failure analysis, metallurgy and welding. I started welding when I was 15, and it just kind of drove a passion to know everything and anything about the microstructure, the atomic bonding, everything. I've worked Lawrence Livermore National Lab for ten years, and I also do private consulting."
"Kevin really is the smartest guy in the room but doesn't come off like that. He doesn't have that air about him. But it's pretty cool hanging out with a scientist buddy who knows a lot about a lot of different things," says Reynolds, noting that the two "hit it off right from the start and we"ve pretty much been having this cool bromance ever since."
Their mutual love of building motorcycles, woodworking and tinkering in general led to the series. "I did a show on PBS called 'Raw to Ready' with Michael Hoff Productions, and we just started talking, and then we shot a sizzle reel—he liked it."
Now that they've completed their first season, they're awaiting the green light to shoot more episodes. "We've got a huge list, plenty of experiments," says Reynolds, who'd like to do more involving green technology. They believe they've found the perfect mix of entertainment and education. "Science is fun, and science is all around us," says Moore. "It's a fundamental building block of our civilization and we can show it in a creative way."
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