Geared toward middle school-aged kids and “the curious kid in all of us,” Head Rush debuts on the Science Channel Monday, August 23, and will air without commercial interruption weekdays from 4-5pm ET/PT (and Saturdays 7-9am) with charismatic MythBuster Kari Byron hosting a frenetic melange of experiments, video clips, animation, puzzlers, and special guests, all adding up to fun and (shhh) education.
During the Space Race, science was demonstrably cool, even awe-inspiring. By applying hard-won scientific principles to the practical realities of propulsion, trajectory, physiology, communications, materials, and a host of other considerations, mankind defied gravity and took “one giant leap” beyond the cocoon of Earth and set foot on the Moon in the course of a single decade.
Having been there and done that, the will to sojourn ever farther into the vast, cold, dangerous night waned, and the space program attenuated from the bright flame of inspiration to the humdrum of cargo transportation.
Even now, with technology ever more present and integral to our lives, the fire doesn’t burn as hot. But there are shining rays of hope coming from perhaps an unexpected source, another great 20th century technological triumph, television.
Far from being nothing but a “vast wasteland,” television now boasts a host of shows and entire cable channels dedicated to the manifest coolness of science and technology, with Head Rush jumping into the ring on Monday.
With her rosy loveliness, freewheeling personal style, and background in film and sculpture, Kari Byron might seem an unlikely choice as role model and advocate for the next STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) generation, but that’s why she might be exactly the right choice.
Byron has honed her problem solving, practical, and on-camera skills through several seasons on Discovery Channel’s iconic Mythbusters, to go along with her innate creativity and enthusiasm, and is now ready to step up to the helm of her own daily show.
An apt example, the first episode of Head Rush ranges far and wide, finding Kari inserting firecrackers into stem glasses, stretching the human stomach, weighing clouds, and discovering what happens when you put an egg into vinegar and why golf balls have dimples.
On a recent visit to San Francisco, Dawn Olsen and I had the privilege of visiting the unassuming warehouse complex where Head Rush (and MythBusters) magic is made.
After meeting Byron and fellow MythBusters Tori Belleci and Grant Imahara outside and snapping a group photo or two, we entered the famous lair, which had been recently aerated after a hidden cache of ballistics gel had gone bad, way bad.
Bouncing around the studio/warehouse in a smart red jacket and black top, Kari demonstrated an experiment from the show using a white power polymer that absorbs liquid and swells into dry flakes.
Enacting the quick cut, talk-to-the-camera style of the show, she next posed a quiz question to us: How would you lift a 100 lb. weight using just your breath?
By constructing a large balloon of two trash bags and a wooden frame, you can lift an object on top of the frame by blowing up the balloon. That’s pneumatics, baby!
If a nail can easily pierce a balloon, surely a BED of nails would instantly shred it, no? No – because the multitude of nails spreads tension evenly across the balloon, it takes much more pressure to pop the balloon than with a single nail.
Byron records two shows a day, “We work hard around here!” she enthused. We asked about guest stars – in addition to a “very special unnamed guest” from the vicinity of the Potomac, Kari will be joined by various personalities from the Discovery family of channels.
The impetus behind the show was the STEM initiative (see link above) and Byron’s interest in passing her love of discovery and applied science on to a young audience.
More on the evolution of the show:
Emphasizing her lack of a formal science background, she assured us that part of her infectious enthusiasm for the subject matter and the show itself stems from the fact that she is learning along with the audience and that keeps it fresh and exciting.
More on her background:
As the mother of an 18 month-old daughter, Byron takes particular interest in her position as role model for girls. Though girls start off in school with approximately the same interest and aptitude in science and math as boys, by middle school their interest begins to wane – a trend that only increases up the educational food chain. For example, females earn only 18 percent of computer and information-science degrees in college, and they make up under a quarter of computer and math professionals.
With a twinkle in her eye, Byron quipped that when her daughter grows up, she’d rather she be a “physicist than an heiress.” “The role models for girls SUCK right now,” she said, and she wants to do something about it, dammit.
Responding to a question from Dawn, Byron noted that she is able to be a mom and a working woman/role model due to a supportive husband and family, but that it’s very difficult because she’s always tired and misses her daughter Stella “all the time” when she is working.
She elaborates Further:
With that, we had to wrap because lunch was over and the show must go on. Check out a little impromptu promo she did for Head Rush:
It’s going to rock!