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Review: ‘Outrageous Acts of Danger’ Makes Science Life-Threatening


Todd Sampson tests the laws of physics with a one-ton wrecking ball in “Outrageous Acts of Danger.”


School’s out in most places, but you can still induce your kids to learn a little something. If, that is, you don’t mind having them watch a television show that begins with this warning:

“Please do not attempt these experiments. They are potentially fatal.”

The series, which begins Wednesday on the Science Channel, is “Outrageous Acts of Danger.” It’s a fun-with-physics show with a perverse streak: Each episode validates a scientific principle by putting the host, Todd Sampson, in a situation that seems as if it might kill him.

In the premiere, he stands in front of an AK-47 in a full swimming pool as it is fired at him underwater. In the second episode, also being broadcast on Wednesday, he tries to climb a glass skyscraper using ordinary vacuum cleaners to create suction cups. It’s “Jackass” with science replacing the stupidity.

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Science as entertainment has been having a nice little run lately. The National Geographic series “Genius,” a stylish, superbly acted scripted series about Albert Einstein, arrived at its two-part finale on Tuesday. “That Physics Show,” an entertaining stage production made of experiments and demonstrations, has been running for more than a year just Off Broadway and next month will be joined in repertory by “That Chemistry Show.” John Turturro’s character even spouts a ridiculous homage to physics in the new big-screen extravaganza “Transformers: The Last Knight.”

Mr. Sampson, who is based in Australia, may or may not be making a political statement about science deniers with this show, though he’s certainly going all in on the principles of friction, resistance, gravity and so on.

“I want to explore these forces — forces I’ve always believed in,” he says in the show’s opening moments. “But it’s one thing to believe, and another to trust them with your life.”

Before he gets to the stunt of the half-hour, he explores with experts the concepts that he hopes will prevent his death — the resistance the water molecules impose on the bullet in the pool; the relation between a vacuum cleaner and the other kind of vacuum, the one involving absence of matter, and how that can be used to create suction powerful enough to hold a man to a building. Later episodes promise that he’ll run through fire and go aloft borne by ordinary helium balloons. Gotta love the commitment.

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